The U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, MD, (R-Ga.) as secretary of HHS in a 52 to 47 vote.
“It is truly an honor to accept President Trump’s nomination to serve our nation as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services,” Price said in a farewell address to resign his seat as a U.S. Representative. “My obligation will be to carry to the department both an appreciation for bipartisan, team-driven policymaking and what has been a lifetime commitment to improving the health and well-being of the American people.”
Previous hearings regarding his nomination focused around the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Price said would provide Americans with a health care system that would benefit everyone.
“American people need to appreciate that the last thing we want to do is go from a Democrat health care system to a Republican health care system,” Price said. “Our goal would be to go from what we see as a Democrat health care system to an American health care system that recognizes the needs of all.”
Price has also voiced opposition to the mandatory practices of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), which he said do not benefit patients. He also expressed plans to make the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program and the Medicare part B Drug Payment Model more patient-centered.
Price previously noted the need to strengthen and secure Medicare for it to remain stable in the upcoming years and the need for access to better care for the Medicaid population.
“There are huge challenges right now, [and] the people we need to be listening to are the governors and the state insurance commissioners and the folks on the ground actually providing the care,” Price said. “If we listen to them, I think they will guide us in the right direction in terms of policy.”
When questioned on whether he was in favor of block granting Medicaid, Price said he was “in favor of a system that is more responsive to patients in the Medicaid system.”
Concerns of Democrats
The final vote occurred after the advancement of the nomination by Republican Senators on the Senate Finance Committee despite a boycott of the hearing organized by Democrats.
Throughout the hearings held by U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Democrats voiced concerns with Price’s nomination as secretary of HHS, not only surrounding his health care policies, but also on allegations of conflicts of interest and potential ethics violations.
“This is a nominee with an extreme agenda,” Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, said in a statement on the Senate floor prior to the final debate on Price’s nomination. “His proposals would strip tens of millions of Americans of their health coverage. His proposals would put Americans with pre-existing conditions in danger of losing coverage for the care they need. His proposals would slash Medicare. His proposals would shred Medicaid. And when it comes to ethics, he falls well short of the standard the American people expect nominees to meet.”
Response from ID professionals
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and HIV Medicine Association each released a statement affirming their commitment to working with Price on improving patient care, strengthening public health, promoting biomedical research and further advancing progress against HIV. The IDSA also stated that it will support Price on efforts to strengthen ID preparedness and incentivize the development of new antimicrobial drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.
“We were pleased that Senators of both parties raised these issues during confirmation hearings,” the IDSA statement said. “We look forward to the work ahead.”
The HIVMA encouraged Price to ensure that people living with HIV have access to the care and treatment they need “to live healthy, productive lives and to prevent HIV transmission to others.”
“As a physician who has worked at a safety net hospital, Dr. Price knows that in a public health crisis like HIV, interruptions in treatment lead not only to disease progression and death, but also to increased numbers of new infections,” the statement said. “While HIV research has resulted in effective treatment and biomedical prevention interventions and contributed to fighting other diseases, including hepatitis C, Zika and Ebola, sustaining a robust research program is critical to continuing progress against the HIV epidemic and toward finding a cure. We stand ready to provide our insights and input toward our common goal of eliminating HIV as a public health threat.” – by Casey Tingle