Live coverage: Tom Price’s confirmation hearing

Greg Nash

The Hill will be providing live coverage of Tom Price’s first confirmation hearing for secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Today’s hearing is with the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, which will not take a formal vote on Price’s nomination. He will also sit before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on his nomination.

Price says Medicaid users won’t “fall through the cracks” 

1:04 p.m.

Price said lawmakers must ensure Medicaid users don’t “fall through the cracks” during the transition from ObamaCare to a new healthcare law designed by Republicans. 

Through ObamaCare, 32 states expanded their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income citizens, throwing into question what will happen if the law is repealed. 

“We must absolutely ensure that individuals do not fall through the cracks in whatever transition occurs,” Price said. 

“Whether it’s retaining the same level of Medicaid participation or whether its providing an option for something else that allows them coverage that suits their needs, we are committed and adamant that that coverage be able to be continued. They have our assurance that we will work with you to make certain that happens.” 

Price dodges allowing kids to remain on parents’ healthcare until 26

12:42 p.m.

Price dodged questions about whether he supports allowing kids to stay on their parents’ healthcare until age 26. 

ObamaCare requires insurers cover those children until age 26, but it’s unclear if that provision will be included in the replacement for the healthcare law. Trump has said he supports the provision. 
“It’s been baked into the insurance programs that are out there right now,” Price said when asked if he supports the mandate. 
Pushed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to elaborate, he said “What I’m absolutely committed to is making sure that every single American has access to the kind of coverage that they want and has the financial feasibility to be able to purchase that coverage.” 

Price won’t be pinned down on Medicare drug price negotiation

12:34 p.m.

Price wouldn’t give a direct answer under questioning from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) about whether Price agrees with President-elect Trump’s call for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The idea is usually associated with Democrats as a way to fight high drug prices, but Trump has embraced it and attacked drug companies. 

Price said that “the boss that I have will be the president of the United States,” but did not say “yes” when Baldwin asked if Price would work to allow Medicare to negotiate. 

Eventually, Price said: “I think we need to find solutions to folks gaining access to needed medication and it may be that one of those is changing the way that negotiations occur.”

Franken rips into Price over investments, ObamaCare plan

11:51 a.m.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) took Price to task over his investments, including a private offering of a medical stock that Franken called a “sweetheart deal.”

“This was a private offering to a very small number,” Franken said, noting it also went to Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). “These sound like sweetheart deals.”

Price said he paid the same price as everyone else in the private stock offering. 

Franken also hit Price for owning tobacco stocks, while voting against anti-smoking legislation. 

Franken accused Price of “reaping personal financial gain from the sales of an addictive product that kills millions of Americans every decade.”

Price kept his cool and said he hoped to be able to work together with Democrats. 

Franken also said repealing Medicaid expansion in ObamaCare, as Price proposes, scares him and his constituents. 

“I am very frightened about what you are going to do, and so are millions of Americans,” Franken said. 

Price demurs on whether people with pre-existing conditions will be protected under new healthcare plan

11:38 a.m.

Asked by Sen. Bob Casey if he would commit to maintaining ObamaCare protections that bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, Price said its a congressional issue, not an administrative issue. 

“I think its absolutely imperative that we have a system in place that works for patients,” Price said. 
“Anybody not able to get access to the coverage that they want or need is not a system that works for patients.” 
Trump has said he favors keeping the pre-existing conditions provision. 

Price: ‘No reason to believe’ Trump changed position on not cutting entitlement programs

11:10 a.m. 

Price said he has no reason to believe that Trump has changed his position on not cutting funding to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) read a series of tweets and quotes from Trump, in which he promised not to cut funding for entitlement programs. 

Asked if he thinks Trump will keep his word, Price replied: “I have no reason to believe that position has changed.” 

“I haven’t had extensive discussions with him about the comments he’s made, but I have no reason to believe that he’s changed his position,” Price said.

Murray presses Price on investments

11:04 a.m.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee’s top Democrat, went right after the controversy around Price’s investments while a member of Congress. 

Murray pointed to Price’s investment in a biotech company called Innate Immunotherapeutics. Murray said it raised questions that Price invested in the firm while voting on the 21st Century Cures Act, which affected the company.

Murray questioned whether Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) gave Price a stock tip about the company. 

Price said he learned of the company from Collins and then did research on it before investing. 

“I had no access to nonpublic information,” Price said. 

Democrats have called for the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Price acted improperly by trading on congressional information. 



Price: We won’t pull the rug out on those with healthcare
10:54 am

Price assured senators that healthcare wouldn’t be snatched away from those who received it through ObamaCare. 

“I think one of the things we need to convey to the American people is that no one is interested in pulling the rug out from anybody,” he said. 
“We think it’s absolutely imperative that individuals that have health coverage be able to keep health coverage and move hopefully to greater choices and options for them to gain the kind of coverage they want for themselves and their families.” 

Trump has said he will introduce a replacement for ObamaCare after Price in confirmed, noting that the replacement would come at the same time as the repeal. 

“I think there is a lot of talk about individuals losing health coverage. That is not our goal, nor is that our desire, nor is that our plan,” Price said.

Price: ObamaCare replacement bill not the place for Medicare changes

10:50 a.m.

Price said an ObamaCare replacement is not the place to overhaul Medicare. 

“Is this the bill to reform Medicare?” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) asked. 

“Absolutely not,” Price replied. 

Democrats have attacked Price for wanting to overhaul Medicare and move it more towards relying on private plans, saying such a system would end Medicare’s traditional guarantee. 

Price pointed instead to the individual market, which ObamaCare largely governs, and Medicaid. 

“I think the challenges we have to address immediately are in the individual market and the Medicaid market,” Price said. 

Tags Al Franken Bernie Sanders Bob Casey Lamar Alexander Patty Murray Tammy Baldwin

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