US Senate votes to confirm Tom Price as health secretary

Washington: The US Senate on Friday confirmed Representative Tom Price as Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, putting him in charge of president Donald Trump's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

IANS February 10, 2017 15:14:31 IST
US Senate votes to confirm Tom Price as health secretary

Washington: The US Senate on Friday confirmed Representative Tom Price as Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, putting him in charge of president Donald Trump's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

US Senate votes to confirm Tom Price as health secretary

File image of US president Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama. Agencies

The 62-year-old orthopaedic surgeon was confirmed by 52 votes to 47, after a debate that focused as much on his ethics and investments as on his views on health policy, the New York Times reported.

As a Congressman he supported privatising Medicare, America's public health insurance for the elderly. He proposed turning Medicaid, a programme for the poor, into a block grant — a change certain to precipitate cuts.

Price campaigned relentlessly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, former president Barack Obama's signature health law, which brought consumer protections and government subsidies to an unwieldy private insurance market. The law helped insure 20 million Americans.

Senator Michael B Enzi, Republican of Wyoming, said Price was "one of the most capable, well-prepared individuals that president Trump could have chosen."

Majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said Price "knows more about healthcare policy than just about anyone".

Democrats said Price, a House member since 2005, had shown bad judgement by actively trading shares of medical and pharmaceutical companies while shaping health policy in Congress. Price has denied wrongdoing and said at a confirmation hearing: "Everything that I did was ethical, above-board, legal and transparent."

But he recently amended his financial disclosure statement to report a higher value for his investment in a small Australian biotechnology company, and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, said his financial dealings raised serious questions about potential insider trading that ought to be investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"While Congressman Price served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he traded in healthcare stocks, pushed policies that helped his portfolio and got special access to a promising stock deal," said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee.

As Secretary, Price will be responsible for a department with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion.

Some of the Democrats, according to the report, said they have found him to be an effective advocate for conservative policies that they abhor.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No.2 Senate Republican, said Democrats were dragging their feet on confirming Trump's nominees because of a desire to "block, stall and obstruct this President at every turn".

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