Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead Health and Human Services, has an ethically questionable investment and legislative history. Just days after purchasing stock in Zimmer Biomet, for example, he turned around and introduced legislation that would significantly benefit this manufacturer of artificial joint replacements by delaying implementation of a Medicare rule to enhance safety and save taxpayer money. Now Trump wants him to lead the department that regulates companies like Zimmer Biomet as well as overseeing Medicare. Our elders deserve better than this.
Boy, the way that Trump courted the American Everyman, you’d think he really meant what he said about draining the ol’ Washington swamp, wouldn’t you? He was the rock they threw at the Establishment. The end of corruption-as-usual. He was going to clean the place up, turn it around, and give it back to the People. This idea was even front and center in his inauguration speech. “[T]oday, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another. But we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Well, wait until The People get a load of Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Georgia congressman Tom Price, come on down!!
Let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine to March, 2016. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio dropped out of the Presidential race. Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for Supreme Court justice. North Carolina was debating where transgendered individuals should be allowed to go potty. And Tom Price purchased somewhere between $1,000 and $15,000 of stock in Zimmer Biomet, a company that manufactures artificial replacement hips and knees.
Mere days later, not even waiting a whole week, Tom Price went on to introduce H.R. 4848, the Healthy Inpatient Procedures (“HIP”) Act of 2016. Why does this matter? Because passing the “HIP Act” would delay the implementation of new rules designed to increase the safety and reliability of medical devices while saving the taxpayers money. If it passed, Price’s legislation would significantly benefit companies like Zimmer Biomet. I’m sure it’s totally a coincidence, but shortly thereafter, Zimmer Biomet’s PAC donated a cool thousand bucks to Tom Price. Big money! No whammies!
In the same way that one might nominate Cruella de Vil to lead the Humane Society, with all that relevant puppy experience, Tom Price is clearly the guy that an idealistic yet novice President seeking to run an ethically challenged banana republic might pick to lead the department of Health and Human Services. Experience with companies that manufacture medical devices? Check! Experience with crafting legislation to regulate Medicare as a cash cow for corporate interests? Check! Ability to sit there and explain in a Congressional hearing that he doesn’t know what companies he owns stock in, and that it was all a big coincidence? Check and mate!
Is it possible for someone so entangled in an ethical nightmare to effectively lead HHS in such a way as to fulfill the department’s mission to “enhance the health and well-being of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services”? Maybe about as well as someone currently suing the EPA can lead the EPA, or someone who wanted to abolish the Department of Energy can run the DoE, or someone who wants to gut public education can serve as education secretary. In other words, perhaps Tom Price’s discombobulated ethics are a feature, not a bug, to someone looking to drain a swamp to collect the crocodiles. Price claims that everything he did was legal and aboveboard. Maybe it even is, but it still looks sketchy as all get out.
It’s all well and good to take a few pot shots at Trump’s choices to fill his cabinet of (dare I say it?) deplorables, but what’s truly sad here is how hard this is going to hit our seniors. According to exit polls, Trump voters skewed older, with 53% of the 45-64 and 65+ age groups casting their votes for him. These folks kept the faith for The Donald, and this is the best he can do to thank them? They deserve better than someone who has already tried to compromise their safety and profit from their pain. This price is too damn high.
Price is scheduled to face the Senate Finance Committee today.