President Donald Trump’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday provided lawmakers with few details or assurances about what the president’s executive order could mean for Americans who receive medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Georgia Rep. Tom Price could not guarantee all Obamacare enrollees will keep their health insurance after Trump’s directive to federal agencies to take actions to unravel the health care law. Price also could not promise a replacement plan would be ready to go ahead of the expected GOP-led repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“Our commitment is to make sure that every single American has access to the highest quality coverage and care possible,” Price said after being pressed by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.
“The questions that I asked: Will the congressman commit that nobody will be worse off, nobody will lose coverage? We didn't get an answer," Wyden said.
It was Price’s second appearance in front of a Senate committee and, despite tough questions from Democrats, he seems poised to be confirmed to head the department that will lead the charge of implementing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and instituting its replacement.
Trump’s executive action on Obamacare was among the first he took after being sworn in and signaled the administration’s eagerness to take action on a major campaign promise. But what to replace the Affordable Care Act with has been a point of contention among Republicans.
Price also dodged questions over the GOP replacement plan for Obamacare as Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee grilled him during his confirmation hearing.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Price if Trump had “lied” when he said the administration was working on an Obamacare replacement.
“I’ve had conversations with the president about health care,” Price responded.
He did, however, say the administration intends to protect people with pre-existing condition against losing their coverage.
A continued focus of Price’s nomination has been the congressman’s stock purchases that Democrats claim present a “a conflict of interest” for his new post. Senate Democrats have said Price’s purchase of healthcare equities that could be impacted by congressional action presents a problem for the next potential head of HHS.
The committee also found Price had undervalued stocks in disclosure forms. Price said the mistake was a clerical error.
"The reality is everything I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent," Price said.
The Georgia Republican also broke with Trump’s widely discredited skepticism of vaccines, dismissing their link to autism.
"I think that science and health care has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccination," Price said.