Wednesday the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a confirmation hearing for Georgia Congressman Tom Price, Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as the secretary of health and human services. Price is a controversial choice, as he is seen by many social justice advocates to be against the very programs that he has been nominated to lead—programs that tens of millions of people desperately need for health care.
Major topics of inquiry revolved around the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid and Medicare, all of which Price has spent his political career trying to cut. Price has introduced a plan to repeal and replace the ACA in every Congress since 2009, and once proposed to cut more than a trillion dollars out of Medicaid. Price also supports privatizing Medicare, and has introduced legislation that would allow doctors to essentially opt out of Medicare and charge higher prices.
Senator Sanders asked Price if Trump intended to keep his promise to the American people to save Medicaid and Medicare, and pushed Price to answer whether or not he believed healthcare was a basic human right. Price attempted to dodge the question by arguing that America was “a compassionate society,” to which Sanders responded, “No we’re not a compassionate society.”
Senator Bennet asked Price if he would allow the repeal of the ACA to increase the national debt, and Senator Hassan asked Price how he would back up his guarantee that all Americans will still have the healthcare they need after the repeal of the ACA. While insisting throughout the hearing that repealing the ACA would not leave millions uninsured, Price failed to provide many details on Republicans’ plan for replacement. The ACA and its expansion of Medicaid has provided healthcare to 32 million new people, given 55 million women access to preventative care services, and granted comprehensive coverage to 52 million people with pre-existing conditions.
Throughout the hearing, Price repeated his favorite critique of the ACA that it “interferes with the ability of patients and doctors to make medical decisions.” Yet Price is a staunch opponent of abortion and contraception access, voting to defund Planned Parenthood and co-sponsoring legislation to outlaw abortion, stem cell research, some forms of contraception, and in vitro fertilization. He even opposes private health insurance coverage for abortion.
One of the biggest areas of contention at the hearing surrounded Price’s dubious healthcare stock trades, and whether or not he used his political influence for financial benefit. Senator Murphy made the statement that, “This entire administration is starting to look like a get-rich-quick scheme.” When Senator Warren continuously pressed him on his financial dealings, he called her line of questioning offensive.
The Department of Health and Human Services manages an annual budget of over $1 trillion, oversees the health insurance of more than 100 million Americans, including setting Medicare policies, controls the agencies that regulate food and drugs, and directs funds to biomedical research.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has come out in strong opposition to Price’s nomination to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to a letter by Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, “Women and men cannot go back to a day of back alley and unsafe abortions, and a day without the ability to control their own reproductive lives. Older people, disabled people, low-income people, and children cannot go back to a day without any access to affordable healthcare.”
Media Resources: New York Times 1/19/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 11/30/16, 1/16/17;