HHS Nominee Dodges Questions on ACA repeal, Medicare, and Medicaid in Confirmation Hearing


As expected, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), Health and Human Services Secretary nominee, faced intense scrutiny at today’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Despite President Trump’s recent Executive Order instructing his Administration to facilitate the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by “minimizing any unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens,” Price would not reveal whether penalties would be removed for people who don’t purchase insurance. He said that our current system works for the government, but not patients. As Secretary, he would ensure that everyone has “access to affordable coverage.”

Throughout the hearing, Price skirted questions about the replacement plan. He declined to reveal any potential changes to ACA. Instead, he stressed that it was Congress’ responsibility to devise an ACA replacement plan. He maintained that, as Secretary, he would merely implement the plan passed by Congress.

Ranking Member, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), referenced Price’s previous ACA replacement legislation during questioning. He expressed concerns that repeal would destroy the market and urged Price to keep patients at the “center of healthcare, not money or special interests.” Price said he wouldn’t abandon individuals with pre-existing conditions, but stopped short of guaranteeing coverage. He repeated his desire to make sure every American had an “option and opportunity for care.”

In his own plan, Price has supported privatizing Medicare in the past, but denied plans to privatize it in the replacement. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) pointed out that seniors are “petrified about a privatized Medicare.” When questioned on Medicaid, Price would not reveal whether the replacement plan would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Despite his past efforts to change Medicaid into block grants, which would provide money directly to states and allow them to make coverage decisions, Price said he would defer to Congress.

Price weighed in on a successful nursing program. Sen. Tim Scott, (R-SC), highlighted the Nurse Family Partnership, a Medicaid-funded program which pays to send nurses into the homes of low-income, first-time mothers. While he was impressed with the program, Price pointed out that Medicaid “coverage doesn’t always equal care.” Price did share that he favors an eight year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Price has been a vocal critic of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), which pays providers based on quality and outcomes. He said CMMI should incentivize innovation and benefit patients, but that CMMI is “off track a bit” in that it dictates how providers must practice without exception.

Senate Democrats questioned Price’s judgment for receiving discounts and actively trading health care stocks. Price said everything he did was ethical and legal. The discounts, he said, “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.” Despite the testy exchanges around ethics, there was bipartisan support for improving access to high-quality healthcare in rural America. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) pointed out that the rural healthcare delivery system was “under stress.” He asked if Price would reduce documentation burdens on providers and hospitals. Price agreed, noting that government sometimes puts up roadblocks to expanding technology, especially in rural areas. He said we ought to be incentivizing innovation for patients to receive the highest quality care. Price said telemedicine is improving lives of patients in rural communities. If confirmed, he promised to strengthen rural healthcare and establish less burdensome regulations.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), praised Price’s “performance.” He said Price has the experience and qualifications to effectively lead HHS. He plans to schedule a committee vote to send Price’s nomination to the full Senate for final vote as soon as possible.

Hello, Congress? It’s nurses. We need to talk.


Nurses have the power to change the conversation on health care – starting with your senators, right now.

Can you speak out for your patients today? A two-minute phone call could make all the difference for patients who are on the brink of losing their health insurance.

Just dial 1-202-224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard and an operator will connect you to your senator’s office.

When you’re connected, here are some pointers to guide your conversation:

  • Share your name and your town or city so they’ll know you’re a constituent.
  • Tell the staffer that you are a nurse, and you’re concerned that patients like yours could lose access to health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
  • Remind them that insurance costs were skyrocketing before the ACA went into effect, and that without it, millions of people would have simply been priced out of healthcare already.1
  • Explain that, as a nurse, you want to share your personal story of how you experience the healthcare system. Share your vision for what is working and what is not, and what Washington can do to fix those problems.
  • Finally, thank them for their time. If you have another minute, call the switchboard again and ask to speak to your other senator’s office.

Once you’re done, let us know you’ve made your call so we can keep track of which senators are hearing from nurses and hold them accountable here in Washington.

Yes, I called my senator’s office and spoke with a staffer.

Yes, I called both my senators’ offices and spoke with their staff.

No, I wasn’t able to get through, but I’ll try again later!

Thank you for taking care of your patients every day, and thank you for speaking out today. Nurses like you truly are making a difference in Washington!

Rep. Tom Price, Health and Human Services Nominee, Leaves Many Questions Unanswered at Confirmation Hearing


Today’s courtesy hearing for Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee  raised more questions than answers. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase premiums by 20-25 percent and leave 18 million people uninsured within the first year. Price did not address those staggering statistics at all. Instead, he insisted that the administration’s plan would not leave millions without coverage and would cover more people than the ACA. Unfortunately, he did not provide any details about the plan.

Sen. Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee, asked Price if the administration’s plan would be a quick fix. Price assured him it would not be and that everyone would have access to high-quality health care. “We don’t intend to replace a Democratic plan with a Republican plan,” said Price. Chairman Alexander committed to a “step-by-step” process to repeal ACA and devise a long-term solution for all Americans. Alexander continued by saying the final plan should focus on employer coverage, Medicaid and the individual marketplace. Price still didn’t commit to details, but said that the plan would provide access to coverage and that full repeal would not be finalized until a replacement plan was in place.

Not knowing what the administration’s proposal entails, legislation that Price has introduced since 2009 gives us some indication of what to expect in the final plan. Price’s bill would repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion; favor young and healthy Americans, while putting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions at risk. Democratic members of the Committee pointed out the inconsistencies with what Price said at today’s hearing to what he has said in the past. Despite their questions, Price would not commit to maintaining the ACA’s protections for people with disabilities, women, mental health, or addiction. He also did not commit to shield Medicare or Medicaid funding from cuts. Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, later came under fire from Democrats for allegedly profiting from inside information on healthcare stocks and benefiting from legislation he helped write while serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee. Price insisted that he had done nothing inappropriate, as he used a broker and wasn’t aware of the stocks he owned.

Price will come before the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over his nomination, on January 24th at 10am. In advance of the Finance hearing, ANA is sharing our priorities and offering questions to Committee champions to get Price on record affirming his support for improving access, quality, and affordability of healthcare.