Live coverage: Trump's health pick has second hearing

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

12:39 p.m.

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

12:29 p.m.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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

11:55 a.m.

Price committed to extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Asked by Ohio Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCongress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders Appeals court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood clinics It is Joe Biden's time — 10 reasons 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.

 

 

Price asserts need to protect people with pre-existing conditions
11:22 a.m.
 
Price cast doubt on his 2012 quote in Politico, where Democrats have pointed to comments where Price seemed to say that banning discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions was a "terrible idea." 
 
 
Price said he did not think he had said that about people with pre-existing conditions, and appeared to say that he thinks insurers should not be able to discriminate against them. 
 
"Nobody ought to be priced out of the system for having a bad diagnosis," Price said. 
 
He did not get into the details of how he would plan to provide coverage with people with pre-existing conditions, one of the main tenets of ObamaCare.  
 
 
Price, Trump at odds on Medicare
 
11:16 a.m.
 
Even though Donald Trump vowed not to touch Medicare during his presidential campaign, Price said Tuesday it must be reformed if the government wants to keep its promise to seniors. 
 
"We will not be able to provide the services to Medicare patients... if nothing is done," Price said. 
 
"My goal is to work with each and everyone one of you to make certain we save, strengthen and secure Medicare." 
That puts him at odds with Trump, who vowed not to cut Medicare like "every other Republican." 
 
Price supports privatizing the Medicare program so seniors would receive fixed dollar amounts to buy coverage. 
 
Democrats have criticized that strategy as a voucher system that would shift more costs onto seniors. 
 
 

Price pressed on Trump's executive order

11:04 a.m.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenKlobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction MORE (D-Ore.) pressed Price on how he would implement the executive order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: 'White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group' National Enquirer paid 0,000 for Bezos texts: report Santorum: Trump should 'send emails to a therapist' instead of tweeting 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

10:58 a.m.

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

10:53 am

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.

 

 

Wyden hits Price on ethics questions

10:24 a.m.

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 HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate 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.