The Price is Wrong

The Price is Wrong

Good rid­dance:

Tom Price, the health and human ser­vices sec­re­tary, resigned under pres­sure on Fri­day after rack­ing up at least $400,000 in trav­el bills for char­tered flights and under­min­ing [Don­ald] Trump’s promise to drain the swamp of a cor­rupt and enti­tled capital.

Already in trou­ble with Mr. Trump for months of unsuc­cess­ful efforts to repeal and replace Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care pro­gram [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act], Mr. Price failed to defuse the president’s anger over his high-priced trav­el by agree­ing to pay a por­tion of the cost and express­ing “regret” for his actions.

The report that led to today’s Fri­day news dump appeared on Sep­tem­ber 19th, 2017 in Politi­co, authored by Dan Dia­mond and Rachana Prad­han:

In a sharp depar­ture from his pre­de­ces­sors, Health and Human Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price last week took pri­vate jets on five sep­a­rate flights for offi­cial busi­ness, at a cost of tens of thou­sands of dol­lars more than com­mer­cial travel.

The secretary’s five flights, which were sched­uled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in a Q&A dis­cus­sion with a health care indus­try CEO, and to com­mu­ni­ty health cen­ters in New Hamp­shire and Penn­syl­va­nia, accord­ing to inter­nal HHS documents.

The trav­el by cor­po­rate-style jet comes at a time when oth­er mem­bers of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion are under fire for trav­el expen­di­tures, and breaks with the prac­tices of Oba­ma-era sec­re­taries Sylvia Math­ews Bur­well and Kath­leen Sebe­lius, who flew com­mer­cial­ly while in the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States.

Price, a fre­quent crit­ic of fed­er­al spend­ing who has been devel­op­ing a plan for depart­men­twide cost sav­ings, declined to comment.

Since Politi­co’s report was pub­lished, Trump has open­ly sug­gest­ed on sev­er­al occa­sions that he might get rid of Price. Price’s depar­ture is offi­cial­ly being char­ac­ter­ized as a res­ig­na­tion, but the truth is he was forced out of the regime.

Price — who oppos­es LGBT rights, repro­duc­tive rights, and Medicare —  was tapped by Trump as his choice for the role last Novem­ber. He resigned from the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to join the cab­i­net, cre­at­ing a vacan­cy in GA-06.

Price’s tenure at the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices was short… and dis­as­trous. As Sec­re­tary, rather than look­ing out for the well-being of the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, Price tried repeat­ed­ly to sab­o­tage the care that mil­lions depend on, includ­ing by plot­ting with his for­mer col­leagues in Con­gress to evis­cer­ate the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act. For­tu­nate­ly, on that front he failed.

Price also made erro­neous state­ments about med­ica­tion-assist­ed addic­tion treat­ments that had to be called out by doc­tors and sci­en­tists.

And then, of course, there were the the pricey char­tered flights.

“Even before his tax­pay­er-fund­ed lux­u­ry trav­el was dis­cov­ered, Sec­re­tary Price was an unac­cept­able choice for Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices — not only giv­en the seri­ous, unan­swered ques­tions about improp­er finan­cial ben­e­fits stem­ming from his work in Con­gress, but also because of his ide­o­log­i­cal­ly dri­ven approach to health care and in par­tic­u­lar women’s health and repro­duc­tive rights,” said Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray in a state­ment pro­vid­ed to NPI.

“The fact that this deci­sion took this long only indi­cates the extent to which the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion allows its senior offi­cials to put them­selves, and par­ti­san pol­i­tics, ahead of fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties,” Mur­ray added.

“I hope Pres­i­dent Trump takes this oppor­tu­ni­ty to select a new Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices who will tru­ly put patients and fam­i­lies first, and I look for­ward to a rig­or­ous and com­pre­hen­sive nom­i­na­tion process.”

U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal called for Price’s res­ig­na­tion in a let­ter sent last week with sev­er­al of her colleagues.

“You have rou­tine­ly made use of expen­sive pri­vate jets for offi­cial trav­el, bypass­ing cost-effec­tive alter­na­tives and wast­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of tax dol­lars,” not­ed Jaya­pal and her col­leagues Ruben Gal­lego of Ari­zona, Ted Lieu of Cal­i­for­nia, Jamie Raskin of Mary­land, and Bren­da Lawrence of Michi­gan, who are all Democrats.

“At a min­i­mum, the Amer­i­can peo­ple expect cab­i­net sec­re­taries to lead with integri­ty, accept account­abil­i­ty, and use pub­lic resources respon­si­bly,” the five mem­bers wrote. “In light of your breach of the pub­lic trust, we write to urge you to do the right thing and imme­di­ate­ly ten­der your resignation.”

Don­ald Trump pro­ceed­ed to make the same demand. And now Price is out. So no more Mis­ter Price Guy. HHS will need new a new chief­tain; let’s hope who­ev­er is nom­i­nat­ed by the regime is less extreme than Price was.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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