Dems say not so fast on Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, call for ethics probe

Democrats are calling for an ethics probe into the healthcare-related stock investments of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the independent Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Price’s stock trades before confirmation hearings for his nomination as secretary of the HHS, according to Reuters.

Schumer told news reporters Thursday that he doesn’t know if Price broke the law but wants an investigation into reports that Price bought and sold more than $300,000 in stock in about 40 healthcare, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies since 2012 while sponsoring legislation that may have influenced those companies’ shares. They want to know what nonpublic information Price had when he made those transactions.

"Every American should be shocked by this," Schumer said at the conference, Reuters reported.

Price’s nomination as HHS secretary has divided the medical community. Nearly 450 doctors who are members of the American Medical Association signed an open letter criticizing the physician group’s endorsement of the Trump nominee. The physicians believe Price’s positions on health policies contradict their belief in healthcare access for all Americans, access to reproductive healthcare to all women, protections for the LGBTQ community, and continued coverage for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

But some insurers are also wary. Forbes reports that payers worry that Price will not consider their best interest and instead want them to pay physicians with few questions asked. The Georgia congressman, an orthopedic surgeon, has opposed narrow networks and favors policies that allow physicians to collectively bargain with insurers and balance bill for their services, according to the article.

Many nurses are also opposed to Price’s nomination, MedPage Today reports. Deborah Burger, R.N., of Santa Rosa, California, co-president of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the country, told the publication they fear that a repeal of the ACA, which Price supports, would eliminate tax increases that fund subsidies to help low-income patients afford their insurance premiums. Others are opposed to his record on diversity and inclusion, according to the article.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers aren’t the only ones calling for the ethics probe into Price. Reuters reports that Public Citizen, a nonpartisan watchdog, has also asked the ethics office and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct an investigation.

Price didn’t answer CNN directly when a reporter asked whether he thought it was a mistake to trade in stocks in an industry he oversaw. But he told the publication he would answer that question if asked by the committee and said "I am looking forward to a very positive and productive confirmation hearing."

Republicans, meanwhile, don’t seem concerned about the allegations. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the GOP leadership who serves as the chairman of a panel that approves funding for HHS, told CNN that Price is a person of high integrity and doubts that the allegations are serious.