Health Secretary Pick, Tom Price invested in a company, then introduced a bill to help that same company

UPDATE Below: Tom Price invested in a company, then introduced a bill to help that same company.

by Tami Luhby November 28, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Georgia Representative Tom Price, an ardent critic of Obamacare, to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

One of Price’s top priorities as health secretary will be to dismantle the sweeping health reform law that his two predecessors spent six years implementing.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon who chairs the House Budget Committee, has long decried Obamacare as a threat to quality and affordable health care.

Before entering politics, Price spent nearly 20 years in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. He also served as medical director of the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital and as an assistant professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine

Price then spent four terms in the Georgia State Senate. In 2004, he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was named Budget Committee chair in 2015.

Trump will likely lean heavily on his health secretary to replace Obamacare. The president-elect has promised to repeal Obamacare as one of his first acts after taking office on January 20, but he has yet to lay out a detailed plan on how he’d replace it.

CNN Correspondent Phil Mattingly contributed to this story.

Tom Price doesn’t just have it out for Medicare. He’s also focused on:

  • STRIPPING Planned Parenthood of all federal funding and launching an all-out attack on a woman’s right to choose
  • REPEALING Obamacare and leaving millions of Americans without health coverage – not to mention curtailing access to birth control and maternity care
  • SLASHING Medicaid by more than 30% and stripping insurance from at least 14 million Americans

Investments by Trump’s HHS pick raise questions over conflict of interest

BY Sheila Kaplan, December 3, 2016

The public spotlight may be on Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests, but his nominee to be secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price, could have conflicts of his own.

Price’s wealth pales in comparison with Trump’s. The orthopedic surgeon, first elected to Congress from Georgia in 2004, is ranked as only the 50th richest member of Congress by the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call.

But his stock portfolio includes investments in pharmaceutical, medical device, and health insurance companies, the heart of the industries he would be overseeing as secretary.

Federal ethics rules do not require that Price automatically divest himself of stock. As part of the nomination process, his holdings will be reviewed by the White House counsel’s office, the Office of Government Ethics, and the ethics division at HHS.

Experts say the outcome of that process depends on whether Price owns stock in companies whose fate he could directly affect.

Jan Baran, an expert in federal election law, said conflicts would have to involve specific decisions he might make that could benefit himself or his family.

“It depends on whether he’s likely to encounter, as secretary of HHS, any decision that might affect any of those types of companies he owns,” Baran said. “Even if selling it is not seen as something that’s required, he can establish a so-called blind trust, and put all their assets into a blind trust. That would insulate him from future conflicts of interest.”

Neither Price nor Trump’s transition team responded to requests for comment.

Lawmakers are required to report their holdings in broad categories, although some give specific amounts.
Among Price’s holdings are some in Innate Immunotherapeutics, Ltd., a biomedical company in which another lawmaker is a major shareholder. According to his financial disclosure statements, on Aug. 31 he bought between $50,001 and $100,000 worth of stock the firm.
Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, is a director of the company, which develops drugs to treat multiple sclerosis. He lists assets in the firm worth between $5,000,001 and $25 million. Price also purchased a smaller amount of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics in 2015.
Collins is also a member of Trump’s transition team.

In March, Price invested between $1,001 and $15,000 in Amgen; Eli Lilly and Co.; Pfizer; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company; Aetna; and Athenahealth. Also that month, Price sold the same amounts in Gilead, Abbott Laboratories, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Some of these same companies donated to Price’s campaign, During the current 2015-16 election cycle, for example, health care political action committees contributed $414,493 to his campaign committee. Donors included Abbot Laboratories, Pfizer, and Zimmer Biomet PACs.

UPDATE

Jan 16, 2017

First on CNN: Trump’s Cabinet pick invested in company, then introduced a bill to help it

By Manu Raju, Senior Political Reporter

Mon January 16, 2017

Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet, according to House records reviewed by CNN.

Less than a week after the transaction, Price introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.

Zimmer Biomet, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of knee and hip implants, was one of two companies that would have been hit the hardest by the new CMS regulation that directly impacts the payments for such procedures, according to press reports and congressional sources.

After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet and other companies relief from the CMS regulation, the company’s political action committee donated to the congressman’s reelection campaign, records show.

The new revelation is the latest example of Price trading stock in a health care firm at the same time as pursuing legislation that could impact a company’s share price. The issue has become a major liability for the congressman after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could impact them.

The purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares is the latest such example, raising new concerns among ethics experts that Price may have inappropriately used inside information while purchasing shares in a company. Concerns over insider trading on Capitol Hill — where members of Congress allegedly traded stock based on intelligence gleaned from the legislative process — prompted the enactment of the STOCK Act in 2012 aimed at combating the practice.

“It clearly has the appearance of using your influence as a congressman to your financial benefit,” Larry Noble, general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, said of Price’s transaction. “If he believed in the bill, he should not have purchased the stock.”

Links to story:

Trump to name Obamacare critic as health Secretary

Investments by Trump’s HHS pick raise questions over conflict of interest

UPDATE, JAN 16, 2017: Tom Price invested in a company, then introduced a bill to help it

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#HoldTrumpAccountable