(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — Washington D.C. — On January 18, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia), underwent a rocky courtesy hearing, ahead of his official senate confirmation hearing, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) delivered the heat, igniting a fire that “offended” the Congressman.
Georgia’s 6th District representative is known as a hardline Tea Party champion of “Obamacare” repeal, and introduced the Empowering Patients Act as a member of Congress, in an effort to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In the hearing, Price was grilled by several Democratic senators, including Al Franken of Minnesota, about healthcare stocks he purchased in six distinct companies, while he simultaneously worked on, and later introduced, legislation that directly benefitted those enterprises. Price admitted at one point, he had purchased stock as part of a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) offering in a company owned in part, by one of his comrades in Congress.
Price also bought stock in a company called Zimmer Biomet on March 17, 2016. Zimmer Biomet could have been financially injured by a proposed a change in the way Medicare pays hospitals for hip and knee replacements to “something called a bundle,” which in-turn lowers cost — and hence, profits for Zimmer Biomet. Price attempted to thwart that change, leading to allegations of corruption. The exchange between Warren and Price was as follows:
Warren: I’m just asking: Did you buy the stock, and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in?
Price: The stock was bought by a direct… by a broker who was making those decisions. I wasn’t making those decisions.
Warren: Ok, so you said, “[you weren’t] making those decision.” Let me just make sure that I understand. These are your stock trades though — they are listed under your name right?
Price: They’re made on my behalf yes.
Warren: Ok. Was the stock purchased through an index fund?
Price: I don’t believe so.
Warren: Uh, through a passively-managed mutual fund?
Price: No, it’s a broker…
Warren: Through an actively-managed mutual fund?
Price: It’s a broker-directed account.
Warren: Through a blind trust? So, let’s just be clear. This is not just a stock broker — someone you pay to handle the paperwork. This is someone who buys stock at your direction. This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them buy and sell.
Price: Not true.
Warren: So, when you found out that…
Price: It’s not true Senator.
Warren: What? Because you decide not to tell them? Wink, wink. Nod, nod. And we’re all just supposed to believe that?
Price: It’s what members of this committee. It’s the manner in which members of this committee…
Warren: I’m not one of them.
Price: I understand that. But it’s important to appreciate that that’s the case.
Warren: Let me keep asking you about this. Then, I want to understand: When you found out that your broker had made this trade without your knowledge, did you reprimand her?
Price: What I did was comply…
Warren: Well, you found out that she made it. Did you fire her? Did you sell the stock?
Price: What I did was comply with the rules of the House in an ethical and legal and above-board manner — and in a transparent way.
Warren: I didn’t ask whether or not the rules of the House let you do this…
After being interrupted by the Chairman who told Warren her time had expired, she convinced him to give her more because GOP members had also gone over. After that, more dialog ensued.
Warren: Your periodic transaction report notes that you were notified of this trade on April 4, 2016. Did you take additional actions after that date to advance your plan to help the company that you now own stock in?
Price: I’m offended by the insinuation Senator.
Warren: Well, let me just read what you did. You may be offended, but here’s what you did: Congressional records show that after you were personally notified of this trade, which you said you didn’t know about in advance, that you added 23 out of your bill’s 24 co-sponsors; that also after you were notified of this stock transaction, you sent a letter to CNS, calling on them to cease all current and future planned mandatory initiatives under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. And just so there was no misunderstanding about who you were trying to help, you specifically mentioned hip and knee replacement.
Also noteworthy, was an exchange early in Warren’s time, wherein the Senator got Price to concede he proposed to cut Medicare by $449 billion and Medicaid by over $1 trillion.
Warren: The budget that you recently authored as Chair of the House Budget Committee would have cut spending on Medicare by $449 billion over the next decade. Is that right?
Price: I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, but what we’re trying…
Warren (holding up document): I have the numbers.
Price: Well, then I assume you’re correct.
Warren: Alright, so you said you’d cut Medicare by $449 billion. Your FY17 Budget also would have cut Medicaid funding that goes to the state governments by more than $1 trillion dollars. Is that correct?
Price: I think Senator, the metrics that we use for the success of these programs is not necessarily whether the amount of money into them… What we believe is appropriate is to…
Warren: I’m just asking. Yes or no. Did you propose to cut a trillion dollars from Medicaid?
Price: What we believe is appropriate is to….
Warren: Do you want me to read you the number out of this?
Price: No, I’m sure you’re correct? What we believe is appropriate is to make certain the individuals receiving the care are actually receiving care.
Warren: I understand why you think you are right to cut it. I’m just asking the question: Did you propose to cut more than a trillion dollars out of Medicaid over the next ten years?
Price: You have the numbers before you.
Warren: Is that a yes?
Price: You have the numbers before you.
Warren: I’ll take it as a yes.
A few moments later, Price attempted to dodge Warrens questioning by saying that money was the “wrong metric” to measure his position of Medicare and Medicaid cuts, to which Warren responded by cutting Price off, saying, “These are really simple questions, and frankly, the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid today are not going to be very reassured by your notion that you have some metric other than the dollars that they need to provide these services. You know, you might want to print out President-elect Trump’s statement ‘I am not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid’ and post that above your desk in your new office, because Americans will be watching to see if you follow through with that promise.”
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- Emerson Urry - Journalist, Author