The Hill will be providing live coverage of Tom Price's confirmation hearing to be secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Price faces the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on his nomination.
Last week, Price took questions from the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee.
Price won't say if he supports eliminating ObamaCare mandate
Price dodged questions about whether he would use a recent executive order signed by Trump to eliminate ObamaCare’s individual mandate before the healthcare law is replaced.
Trump signed an order last week directing federal agencies to “ease the burden of ObamaCare.”
Price reiterated his support for “simultaneous” replacement and repeal of ObamaCare.
Asked again if he would use to order to change the mandate, he replied: “Our commitment is to carry out the law of the land.”
The order did not direct any specific actions, instead giving broad authority to the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to take actions available to them under the law to ease regulatory requirements from ObamaCare.
Top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also said Sunday that the Trump administration may use executive authority to weaken or eliminate the mandate.
Critics argue that could throw insurance markets into disarray and cause higher premiums.
GOP senator worries about people on Medicaid expansion losing coverage
Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTexas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Heller won't say if Biden won election Ex-Sen. Dean Heller announces run for Nevada governor MORE (R-Nev.) asked Price how people on ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion could be protected from losing coverage, a rare focus on some of the benefits of ObamaCare from a Republican senator.
Heller is expected to face a close reelection race in 2018, and his state has accepted the expansion of Medicaid under a Republican governor, like several other Republican-led states that want to protect the expansion.
"Probably the biggest question that we have here for you today is what we’re going to do about those that are part of the Medicaid expansion and how that’s going to impact them?" Heller said.
Price said that all people should have access to coverage, but not necessarily through Medicaid.
Price said people on Medicaid expansion should "either retain that coverage or in some way have coverage through a different vehicle."
Still, he noted Medicaid is a "policy question that needs to be worked out through the House and Senate."
Price commits to extending funding for children's health insurance
Price committed to extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Asked by Ohio Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate poised to battle over Biden's pick of big bank critic Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post Schumer announces Senate-House deal on tax 'framework' for .5T package MORE (D) if he would commit to extending the program past its September expiration date, Price said yes.
“I think the CHIP Program, with policy makers, has to be looked at, and I believe it ought to be extended,” Price said.
Pressed by Brown if he thinks it should be extended five years, Price replied: “Well, if we could extend it for eight, that’d probably be better than five.”
The program covers an estimated 8 million children in low and middle income families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Tom Price on Obamacare: https://t.co/4piqXo8lOm— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 24, 2017
Tom Price says he never said protecting pre-existing conditions was a "terrible idea."— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 24, 2017
But he did say it — to us. pic.twitter.com/UmsUFr6TIR
Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don't punish India Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE grills Tom Price about AIDS, autism, etc. https://t.co/XjtWCvnSFN— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 24, 2017
Price pressed on Trump's executive order
Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.) pressed Price on how he would implement the executive order from President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE on Friday intended to ease the regulatory burden of ObamaCare.
Wyden asked if no one would be worse off under implementation of the order. Price did not directly answer, instead saying he would work with lawmakers to provide "the highest quality healthcare" to people. Wyden shot back: "You ducked the question."
Asked about people losing coverage, Price countered that people who lost their plans under ObamaCare itself should not lose coverage under "whatever replacement plan comes forward."
Price would also not definitively say that he would wait to implement the order until a replacement plan is in place, after being asked by Wyden.
Price denies wrongdoing over ethics
Under questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Price denied wrongdoing on his stock trading of medical companies while a member of Congress.
"The reality is that everything I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent," Price said.
Asked directly if his purchase of stock in the biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics through a private offering not available to the public showed "bad judgment," Price simply said "No."
Wyden said that Price had underreported the value of his investments in the company as part of his disclosure forms as a nominee.
Price argued it was simply a mistake.
"Our belief is that was a clerical error," Price said.
Price supports keeping CMMI
Price indicated that he would like to keep the CMS Innovation Center, saying that it is a “vehicle that might help” incentive innovation but that it has gotten off track.
The innovation center, created under ObamaCare, aims to test new payment and service delivery models to reduce program costs.
But Republicans over the years have characterized it as an overreach.
Price argued that the programs from the center should not be mandatory, though. The center is “mandatorily dictation to physicians.. how they must practice.”
“I hope that we can move CMMI in a direction that actually makes sense for patients,” he said.
Rep. Tom Price in his own words. https://t.co/5htUlYu34K— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 24, 2017
Wyden hits Price on ethics questions
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, opened the hearing by criticizing Price for the questions that have dogged him over his stock trading of medical companies while a member of Congress.
Wyden pointed in particular to Price's purchase of stock in a biotech company called Innate Immunotherapeutics. Price purchased stock in a private offering after discussing the company with Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a member of the company's board. Democrats have called for an investigation of whether Price improperly traded on congressional knowledge and violated the STOCK Act.
"It is hard to see this as anything but a conflict of interest and an abuse of position," Wyden said. "The committee needs to look into these matters before moving the nomination forward."
Republicans have pushed back on the criticism of Price's ethics. Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears MORE (R-Utah) hit Democrats for "unfair attacks on both [Price's] record as a legislator and his finances," without delving into specifics.
"I have never seen this level of partisan rancor when it comes to dealing with a president from an opposing party," Hatch said of Democrats' treatment of President Trump's nominees more broadly.