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HHS nominee Tom Price senate hearing scene of healthy debate

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | January 19, 2017
Business Affairs
President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Health and Human Services Tom Price showed he could play defense yesterday.

Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions sparred with him over a range of issues, from his stock deals as a congressman to the upcoming fight over the Affordable Care Act.

That committee will not get to vote on his appointment. That will be the decision of the Senate Finance Committee, which will hold his second hearing.

The Georgia GOPer called his stock transactions “above board,” claiming he had no access to non-public information while involved in lawmaking that would impact companies.

Price learned of one company he bought stock in, Australia's Innate Immunotherapeutics, which makes experimental drugs, from Republican Congressman Chris Collins, who is now part of the Trump transition.

According to the news site Stat, Price has seen a 400 percent paper gain on that buy. He holds roughly 40 health sector stocks in his portfolio as well.

Collins is the firm's biggest shareholder, NPR reported. At the time he picked up the stock, Price was on the House Ways and Means Committee and was drafting the 21st Century Cures Act, which would have made it easier for firms like Innate Immunotherapeutics to get FDA approval on their drugs.

Republican committee members sprang to Price's defense, noting that others in Congress have bought stocks in the health sector. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) called Democrat behavior “anger management.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) took umbrage at what he dubbed “hypocritical” behavior.

Interestingly, he pointed out that, “not only do House rules not prohibit members from trading stocks, but it is also not an uncommon practice for members of Congress. In fact, there are members on this committee, who have traded individual health stocks, while serving on this committee,” according to the New York Post.

On the ACA repeal, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointedly asked the nominee if health care was a right. Price would not answer directly, saying only that “we are a compassionate society.”

Price refused to go into any specifics on replacing the ACA. He simply stated, the New York Post reported, that, “nobody is interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody,” adding that, “we believe that it is absolutely imperative that individuals who have health coverage be able to keep health coverage and move hopefully to greater choices and opportunities.”

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