“Some folks are born silver spoon in hand. Lord, don’t they help themselves”
Credence Clearwater Revival
Well now, it appears that former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has finally met his Waterloo. Oddly enough, it is over misusing private and military jets, versus questionable stock transactions.
I also say oddly, because back in 2010, U.S. Rep. Price hypocritically criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “flying over our country in a luxury jet.” He obviously knew doing this was wrong, but just assumed that he could get away with it like he did with his shady stock deals as a congressman.
But, I am hardly surprised about that hypocrisy when I look at Price’s record. What I am surprised about is Price’s appointment as DHHS secretary, and the unwarranted support that it received from respected groups such as the AMA and AHA which later vehemently opposed Price’s brainchild, Trumpcare.
The baggage has been there all along. It is hard to understand why these organizations chose play along and to ignore it. Let’s very briefly review the ignominious rise and career of Tom Price.
One does not hear much about Price’s career before he became a congressman. But, he was known as one of the most right-wing politicians in a very conservative state. He made his name by espousing extremist positions such as keeping the Confederate flag on the Georgia state flag.
Price comes from a long line of physicians, but he is not like most of the doctors with whom I am friendly or related. These doctors actually care about people. Price worked at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, which cares for the medically indigent. Most physicians at Grady truly feel for the less fortunate. Based on his policy pronouncements, including opposition to Medicaid expansion, Price has little empathy for them.
He seems to believe that the private sector is the only solution and that most poor people really don’t need Medicaid. They can just go out and buy private insurance.
That is what Price means when he says that Trumpcare provides for full “access.” In the words of Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a Price supporter who voted for the Trumpcare bill: “rather than getting that new iPhone… maybe they should invest in their own health care.”
Trumpcare was Price’s baby all the way, based on HB 2300 which he had introduced as a congressman. HB 2300 was a disconcerting series of disconnected private sector ideas, most of which had been discussed in far-right circles for many years. It pushed tax credits, malpractice limits and health savings accounts.
HB 2300 ignored the pre-existing conditions issue, leaving that to the private sector. If you can’t afford the outrageous premium, you just should have taken better care of yourself.
Price’s campaign received a lot of money from groups that influenced his thinking, including: the insurance lobby, health professionals, hospitals, big pharma, health care firms, securities companies, banks and lawyers. In one recent two year period, his campaign received nearly a half million from health professionals and hospitals alone (Center for Responsive Politics).
As has been documented by the Wall Street Journal, CNN and others, that Price used his time as a congressman to get wealthier by investing in health care firms while initiating legislation favorable to those firms. In one such deal, he bought a stock for pennies which later sold for much more, generating nearly a million dollars in profit for him. It is unclear exactly how much of Price’s $13 million net worth was made during his time in politics.
So, I am not all that surprised about Price’s ethical lapses. But, it does concern me that a person with this kind of a record could have ever been the one in charge of reforming our health care system. I knew his record. Why didn’t Congress and the president? Who will they appoint next?
President Trump, are we draining the swamp, or just adding bigger alligators?
Jack Bernard, the first director of Health Planning for Georgia, has been a senior executive with several national health care firms. A Republican, he’s a former chairman of the Jasper County Commission and Republican Party.