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Casey Leads Senators in Calling for Price Hearings to Include Outside Witnesses

Jan 9, 2017

24 Democratic Senators called for the HELP and Finance Committees to include outside witnesses who can speak to the consequences of Price's policy views on American families.

 Price has a long record of supporting fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid and is a leading architect of repealing the Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and 23 other Democratic Senators today sent a letter to Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) calling for the hearings of Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price to include outside witnesses who can provide the Committees with context on his policy views and the likely consequences of such policies. 

"Dr. Price has a long record in the House of Representatives of supporting fundamental changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs," said the Senators.  "Furthermore, he is the leading architect of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  If the ACA is repealed, tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance and many more will be left exposed to high or unexpected health care costs.

"The HELP and Finance Committees have an obligation to hear from witnesses who can speak directly to how Americans and their families would be impacted by the policies Dr. Price has championed, such as the 30 million Americans who would lose health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed."

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Casey, Warren, Murray, Shaheen, Markey, Franken, Murphy, Sanders, Durbin, Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Baldwin, Stabenow, Hirono, Cardin, Gillibrand, Van Hollen, Kaine, Feinstein, Bennet, Hassan, Brown, Menendez, and Merkley. 

The full text of the letter is available below. 

January 09, 2017

The Honorable Lamar Alexander

Chairman

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Orrin Hatch

Chairman

Senate Finance Committee

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairmen Alexander and Hatch:

We ask that the Committees' hearings on the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include witnesses who can provide the Committee with context on Dr. Price's policy views and the likely consequences of such policies, should they be implemented.  As you know, Dr. Price has a long record in the House of Representatives of supporting fundamental changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  Furthermore, he is the leading architect of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  If the ACA is repealed, tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance and many more will be left exposed to high or unexpected health care costs. He is also a stalwart opponent of policies and programs that promote women's health, while supporting policies that threaten seniors, low-income children and families, and people with disabilities.

The HELP and Finance Committees have an obligation to hear from witnesses who can speak directly to how Americans and their families would be impacted by the policies Dr. Price has championed, such as the 30 million Americans who would lose health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed.[1]  The Constitution authorizes the President to appoint officers of the United States "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."  Consistent with that constitutional mandate, Senate HELP Committee Rule 18 states that, in considering Presidential nominations, the Committee shall collect "information relating to financial and other background of the nominee, to be made public when the committee determines that such information bears directly on the nominee's qualifications to hold the position to which the individual is nominated."[2] Similarly, Senate Finance Committee Rule 11 states that,"[i]n considering a nomination, the committee may conduct an investigation or review of the nominee's experience, qualifications, and suitability, to serve in the position to which he or she has been nominated."[3] 

The policies Dr. Price has pursued during his time in Congress "bear directly" on his "qualifications" and "suitability" to serve as HHS Secretary.  Dr. Price has championed legislation that would result in as many as 30 million Americans losing their health coverage, increase out-of-pocket costs for those with insurance, allow insurers to charge higher premiums to women, eliminate coverage for services such as maternity care, and reinstate annual and lifetime limits on benefits.[4]  He has called the ACA's ban on discriminating against individuals with pre-existing medical conditions "a terrible idea."[5]  He has opposed the ACA's requirement that insurance plans cover contraceptive care as a preventive service with no co-payment, stating that HHS's implementation of this requirement "ought to be reversed, the right to religious freedom protected, and the entire health care law repealed."[6]

Furthermore, in addition to proposals that would increase the eligibility age for and privatize Medicare, Dr. Price has repeatedly introduced legislation that would allow doctors to receive Medicare reimbursements while simultaneously billing patients for higher out-of-pocket costs than are allowed under current law - creating a two-tiered system that would only benefit the wealthy.[7]  He has also supported repeal of the Medicaid expansion and proposed radical restructuring of the Medicaid program through block-grant type proposals that would leave millions of Americans uninsured, threaten essential health services for low-income children and families, seniors and people with disabilities, and result in huge shifts in costs to states.[8]  Such actions would lead to a less sustainable health care system and seriously undermine the ability of states to address public health crises such as the opioid epidemic, mental health crisis, and Zika virus outbreak.

If confirmed to serve as HHS Secretary, Dr. Price would be responsible for enforcing the many consumer protections that he has publicly opposed, administering enrollment in the health system he wishes to overturn, managing a Medicare program that he proposes to cut and privatize, and overseeing a Medicaid program he hopes to dismantle.  Dr. Price is also likely to face a number of unique challenges if Republicans pursue their stated goal of repealing the ACA with a delayed implementation date, creating unprecedented instability in the insurance markets under Dr. Price's tenure. Moreover, Dr. Price has traded stock in dozens of pharmaceutical, heath care, and biomedical companies over at least the last four years, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest during his tenure in the House of Representatives and potentially as Secretary of HHS.[9]

In order to fulfill the Senate's constitutional duty, the HELP and Finance Committees should hear testimony from a broad range of Americans who would be adversely impacted by the policies that Dr. Price has advocated for in Congress.  We hope you will work with us to ensure that Dr. Price's nomination hearing before the HELP and Finance Committees includes these voices.

                                                            Sincerely,

By: DPCC