Tom Price confirmed as HHS secretary, industry reacts

Tom Price speaking
As expected, the Senate voted along party lines this morning and confirmed Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services. (http://tomprice.house.gov)

As expected, the Senate voted along party lines this morning to confirm Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The vote, 52 to 47, took place at around 2 a.m., after Democrats ran the clock out with 30 hours of debate. The confirmation required only a simple majority to vote for him, so in order to block the nominee, Democrats needed to convince a few Republicans to join them. They didn’t succeed.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has served as a member of the House of Representatives for seven terms.

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Democrats opposed Price for his views on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and due to ethical concerns over his investments in healthcare companies.

"He seems to have no higher priority than to terminate health coverage for millions of people," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., the Associated Press reported. She also said his preference for limiting women's access to free birth control was "not only wrong, it's arrogant."

But Democrats aren’t the only ones who have concerns about Price leading the agency. The Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonprofit research and education organization of 20,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance, called his confirmation a “body blow to the nation’s health."

"Price’s vision for reforming U.S. healthcare would result in millions of Americans losing their existing health insurance coverage, and millions more having to make do with bare-bones policies that offer little to no meaningful protection. He can also be expected to push high-deductible health plans, which already result in millions of people forgoing needed care, and to undermine Medicare, the Medicaid program and safety-net hospitals,” said Carol Paris, M.D.,  of Nashville, Tennessee, president of PNHP in a statement.

And the National Partnership for Women & Families said the vote to confirm Price “may cost millions of women access to essential health services.” Debra L. Ness, president of the organization, said the appointment “could have tragic consequences for the health and economic security of millions of people.”

But other industry reaction was positive. For instance, the Federation of American Hospitals said in a statement that Price’s experience as a “thoughtful detailed-oriented legislator, combined with his decades working in the medical field make him uniquely qualified to confront the challenges facing patients, families and caregivers.”

The National Community Pharmacists Association said Price is "uniquely qualified to lead HHS, which will oversee the potential repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and possible reforms to the Medicaid program, among other high-profile priorities for America's complex health system.”

And The Healthcare Leadership Council said in a news release that, “Throughout his tenure in Congress, Dr. Price has been a champion for combating the rise in chronic disease, emphasizing wellness and prevention, expanding the use of health data to improve care, and strengthening the Medicare program for future generations of beneficiaries. We look forward to working with him on these priorities in his leadership at HHS.”