The Senate voted 52-47 early Friday morning to confirm Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a surgeon who has fought to repeal Obamacare, as the 23rd secretary of health and human services.
Not a single Democrat voted for Price, an outspoken critic of Obamacare who is expected to oversee the dismantling and replacement of the health care law as a top priority at the Department of Health and Human Services. The vote along party lines began just before 2 a.m.
Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, hailed Price’s successful appointment by President Donald Trump.
“Dr. Tom Price’s confirmation as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will benefit ordinary Americans enormously,” Moffit told The Daily Signal in an email, adding:
In recent years, Dr. Price emerged as one of the most knowledgeable and respected members of Congress because of his grasp of the complex and difficult issues of federal health policy. But his elevation as HHS secretary is a direct benefit to all Americans because he is a doctor, a person who has dedicated his professional life to helping others.
Before assuming office in 2005 as the House member representing Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Price worked as an orthopedic surgeon for nearly 20 years and was a professor at Emory University School of Medicine.
Two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, not knowing Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency, Price tweeted:
— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) October 25, 2016
When Trump picked Price to lead HHS later in November, he mentioned Price’s readiness to “repeal and replace” Obamacare once confirmed.
“Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on health care policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity,” Trump, then president-elect, said in the announcement. “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”
In 2009, Price introduced the Empowering Patients First Act, making him one of the first members of Congress to create a plan to replace Obamacare.
Not a single Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, when it passed in 2010. Price’s plan addresses two main concerns of the current health care debate—allowing Americans to take their health coverage from job to job, and covering preexisting conditions.
“If you change your job or lose your job, you ought to be able to take your health care coverage with you, just like a 401(k) plan,” Price wrote in a piece for The Hill in 2013.
The future HHS secretary also said the replacement plan should cover preexisting conditions:
[T]o make sure no one is priced out of the health insurance market because of a preexisting illness or injury, the Empowering Patients First Act provides for the creation of robust pooling plans that would ensure that any one person’s health status does not increase his or her costs or the costs of others in the same pool.
The seventh of Trump’s 15 Cabinet members to be confirmed, Price faced sharp questions and obstruction from Senate Democrats despite his familiarity with issues related to HHS from his time in Congress. Democrats demanded to know how he would make sure millions of Americans don’t lose health coverage, and sought to make an issue of a broker’s purchase of health care stocks for Price.
“Just gaining coverage for individuals is an admirable goal, but it ought not be the only goal,” Price told the Finance Committee during a Jan. 24 hearing. “We must have a goal in health care, especially to keep the patient at the center and realize what kind of care and coverage we’re providing for people on the ground. For people with real lives.”
Rachel Bovard, a former Senate aide and director of policy services at Heritage, noted that committee Democrats boycotted a vote on Price two times.
The second time, Finance Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, suspended the rules by unanimous consent and the committee moved the Price nomination, Bovard said. No Democrat was there to object when the panel sidestepped a rule requiring one Democrat to be present to conduct official business.
Price made himself available to senators during the process, Bovard said.
“Price was very generous with his time in front of the Senate,” she said in an email to The Daily Signal, noting that he was required to appear during a hearing before one committee, Finance, but also spent hours before another one—Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions—“as a courtesy, to allow senators to ask him more questions.”
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, another public policy research organization, told The Daily Signal in an email that Price is the right one for the job:
Dr. Price will be an exceptional leader for HHS at this crucially important time. With decades of experience as a physician and proven leadership in public policy, he is uniquely qualified to help our nation’s health sector heal from the wounds of Obamacare. Americans can feel confident that they are in very good and competent hands with an HHS secretary who is dedicated to putting the interests of patients first.