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Get to Know HHS Nominee Tom Price, MD

Last Updated on Friday, February 03, 2017

The first weeks of President Trump’s Administration have been predictably busy as he and Republicans in Congress begin pursuing their policy priorities and seeking confirmation for the President’s cabinet nominees. In January, Representative Tom Price, MD (R-GA-6), President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for healthcare research efforts at the National Institutes of Health, coverage of maternal health benefits, and public health efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address such issues as maternal morbidity and mortality, appeared before both the Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The latter is charged with voting to report the nomination either favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation to the full Senate for a final vote on confirmation. These votes are expected to take place in February.

Dr. Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, has represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional district since 2005. He has served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee and as a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. He has been a staunch advocate for repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has introduced a bill to repeal and replace the ACA in every Congress since 2009. His replacement proposals have included provisions to provide tax credits for individuals to purchase private insurance; allow the sale of insurance plans across state lines; provide states with grants to subsidize high risk pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions; and expand health savings accounts. As Secretary of HHS, Dr. Price would be responsible for overseeing the regulatory and administrative changes necessary to manage the repeal and replacement of the ACA.

At his Senate confirmation hearings, Dr. Price did not expound on programs or reforms related to maternal health, but he did seek to assure committee members that biomedical research would be a priority for HHS under his leadership, referring to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a national treasure and noting that he has supported recent funding increases for the agency. He described himself as a “strong supporter of innovation,” while sticking by his past criticism of federal healthcare regulations that “mandatorily dictate to physicians and other providers in this country, in certain areas, how they must practice.” President Trump’s nominees to lead the NIH, CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are soon to be announced. In the meantime, the Trump administration asked former President Obama appointee Dr. Francis Collins, who has served in the role of NIH Director since 2009, to stay on as Director for the time being.

Dr. Price’s nomination is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote in February. While it is highly likely he will be confirmed, his nomination has been scrutinized by Democratic lawmakers who have expressed concerns over Dr. Price’s position on repeal of the healthcare law as well as his personal financial investments in the healthcare industry in areas where he has been engaged as a lawmaker.

In December, a Preeclampsia Foundation representative attended an encouraging meeting with Dr. Diana Bianchi, the new director of NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, during which she spoke enthusiastically about projects that will include preeclampsia-related research.

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