February 10,2017

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Statement on Tom Price’s Nomination to Lead HHS

As Prepared for Delivery

WASHINGTON Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today offered the following statement before the Senate confirmed Congressman Tom Price to be the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services:

Wyden’s full statement before the vote can be found below:

The debate on Congressman Price’s nomination is a referendum on the future of health care in America. On this side of the aisle, we think it’s worth spending 30 hours talking about a subject this important. This is about whether the United States will go back to the dark days when health care worked only for the healthy and wealthy.

Based on the public record, Medicare is a program Congressman Price doesn’t believe in, and it offers a guarantee of services he doesn’t think seniors should have. On the Affordable Care Act, he is the architect of repeal and run – he wrote the bill himself. He proposed weakening protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. He would slash Medicaid, shredding the health care safety net for the least fortunate among us. He would take away women’s health care choices. Look for the common thread among his proposals: They take away people’s coverage, make health care more expensive for the individual, or both. That is what Congressman Price stands for when it comes to health care. Every Senator who casts a vote for Congressman Price has to stand by that agenda.

And beyond what this means for the future of American health care, there’s the lingering specter, as I’ve discussed tonight in detail, of serious legal and ethical issues.

Congressman Price got special access to a special deal on stock in an Australian biomedical company called Innate Immuno. He claimed multiple times before Senate committees that the deal he got on discounted company stock was open to all shareholders. All the evidence says that is untrue. First, he had to go through the back door to get access to the discounted price. He got a special “friends and family” invite from his colleague in the House – Congressman Chris Collins – the company’s top shareholder and a member of its board. Second, rules that applied to other investors did not apply to Congressman Price. Other shareholders were bound by a limit. They were able to buy one discounted share for every nine they already owned. That would have allowed Congressman Price to buy just 7,000 discounted shares. He bought 400,000 discounted shares. In my view, there’s no getting around it -- that’s the definition of a special stock deal.

Congressman Price introduced legislation that would have lowered the tax bills of three major pharmaceutical companies in which he owned stock. He invested 15,000 dollars in a medical equipment company, then introduced legislation to increase the amount Medicare pays for that type of equipment. Parts of his bill went on to become law. He bought thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in a company called Zimmer Biomet less than a week before introducing legislation that had the potential to drive up the value of those shares. He has argued that he didn’t purchase these stocks, his broker did. But at the very least, he would have known about the deals within days of their purchase when he filed Periodic Transaction Reports with the House. Under his brokerage agreement he could have quickly re-sold the stock, but he did not. Furthermore, he did not consult with the Ethics Committee regarding any of the trades I’ve spoken about as directed by the House Ethics Manual.

As I wrap up, I want to put a human face on why so many Senators on this side have come to the floor to speak passionately about their grave concerns with this nomination. Nothing sums it up more clearly than a line from op-ed Congressman Price wrote in 2009 that discusses Medicare. His quote speaks volumes about his perspectives on Medicare, which I view as one of the great achievements in American policymaking. Congressman Price writes, quote ““nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare.”

Before Medicare, many older people were warehoused in poor farms. I cannot believe Congressman Price wants to go back to those days. But when he speaks about the involvement of Medicare in American health care as though a plague had descended on the country, you have to question his commitment to a program that has become a lifeline to millions of older people.

Medicare is a promise – a promise of guaranteed benefits. Based on the public record, Medicare is a program Congressman Price doesn’t believe in, and it offers a guarantee of services he doesn’t think seniors should have. He said he wants to “voucherize” the program within the first six to eight months of the administration. His budget cut Medicare by nearly half a trillion dollars. That’s exactly the opposite of the Trump pledge not to cut Medicare that the American people heard on the campaign trail. Bottom line, the promise of Medicare is one that Congressman Price would break.

And there’s more. On the Affordable Care Act, Congressman Price is the architect of repeal and run. He wrote legislation creating loopholes in the protection for those with pre-existing conditions, and his plan clearly benefitted big insurance companies. Women would find it much harder to make the health care choices they want and see the doctors they trust. Medicaid pays sixty five percent of the nursing home bill in America, and on this side of the aisle, we will fight Congressman Price’s block grant proposals that will put those seniors at risk. 

I always hope that I’m wrong when I raise the prospects of real threats to the welfare of the American people.  The public record in this case indicates that as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Congressman Price would, in fact, be an extraordinary threat to seniors on Medicare, vulnerable older people who need Medicaid for access to nursing homes, millions of kids for whom Medicaid is the key to a healthy future, and women across the country who have a right to see the doctors they trust. I will oppose his nomination, and I urge my colleagues to join me in opposition.