Confirmation Hearings: Take Action on the Tom Price Nomination

This is the fourth in our series of action items to address certain of President-Elect Donald Trump’s nominations. Today’s topic is the nomination of Representative Tom Price for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

What you should know: We oppose Rep. Price’s nomination. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s expansion of its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, some 670,000 Pennsylvanians have gained access to health insurance. But as a member of Congress, Rep. Price has repeatedly been the chief sponsor of legislation to undo this progress. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion, which would jeopardize the health of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, plus millions more nationwide. Rep. Price has also voted on multiple occasions against expansions of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance for children of families whose incomes are modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid. Over 160,000 children in Pennsylvania and nearly 8.4 million children nationally rely on CHIP for affordable health insurance.

It gets worse. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Price has introduced budget proposals that would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program. This would mean that each state would get a preset amount of federal money each year for Medicaid, and Medicaid enrollees would have no legal recourse against the federal government if those funds fell short of meeting their needs. In practice, these block-grant proposals would cut care to the low-income families and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid, especially during economic downturns. When recessions hit, Medicaid enrollment temporarily swells, as lost income drops families into the safety net. Now, the federal government absorbs much of these temporary costs by automatically increasing its contributions to the states. But if Medicaid becomes a block-grant program, the federal government would provide no extra help, forcing state legislatures to balance their budgets either by hiking taxes during a recession or, more likely, by slashing benefits to the vulnerable.

Rep. Price has supported other troubling bills, including proposals that would ban abortions at 20 weeks, reduce access to contraception, and defund family-planning programs. In addition, in his first day of confirmation hearings he was unable to dispel concerns about his trading of more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies while in Congress, including shares of companies that would have financially benefitted from bills he supported.

According to its website, the Department of Health and Human Services is “the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.” Rep. Price’s record demonstrates that he is unsympathetic to the mission of the agency.

The Public Interest Law Center has long been at the forefront of advocacy for improved access to healthcare in Pennsylvania and beyond. If confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Price would be in a position to undo many of these gains.

For more about Representative Price’s record see: HHS Nominee Rep. Tom Price Poses Serious Threats to Social Safety Net; Trump’s Pick for US Health Secretary Has Pushed to Cut Science Spending; Planned Parenthood: Trump Nominates Extreme Opponent of Women’s Health.

Timing: Rep. Price’s first confirmation hearing took place yesterday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Details about that hearing can be found here. The Senate Finance Committee—the committee that will vote on Representative Price’s nomination—will hold its hearing on January 24.

What you should do:

1.) Call your U.S. Senators’ offices and ask for the person responsible for nominations.

2.) Ask your Senator for a commitment to a) vote against the nominee and b) issue a statement explaining that position.

3.) Publish on social media the response (or lack of response) you are given. If your Senator is on the Finance Committee, (the list is here) ask your Senator to vote for an unfavorable recommendation from the committee to the full Senate.

Pennsylvania’s Senators:

Bob Casey Jr. (a member of both the HELP and Finance Committees)

Senator Casey has issued a statement regarding Representative Price’s nomination.  He pledges to carefully examine his credentials and pose questions about protecting seniors and families in Pennsylvania. He takes issue with Rep. Price’s championing of efforts to “turn Medicaid into a block grant program, which would adversely impact nursing home care for 250,000 seniors in Pennsylvania and 6.4 million seniors nationally.”

Phone numbers:

Washington, D.C. (202) 224-6324

Philadelphia, PA (215) 405-9660

Phone numbers for other offices:

Pat Toomey (a member of the Finance Committee)

In a Facebook post, Senator Toomey called Representative Price a “true leader on real healthcare reform” and a “great pick.”

Phone numbers:

Washington, D.C. (202) 224-4254

Philadelphia, PA (215) 241-1090

Phone numbers for other offices:

Other states

Updates from prior posts:

Senator Casey announced yesterday that he will vote against the nominations of DeVos (Secretary of Education); Sessions (Attorney General) and Pruitt (EPA Administrator). Please thank him for this when you call.

“Betsy DeVos apparently ‘confused’ about federal law protecting students with disabilities” – Washington Post