Under questioning, an Obamacare critic suddenly doesn't have much to say

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Being on the business end of a Senate confirmation hearing can be a grueling, uncomfortable experience. That certainly was the case yesterday for the president-elect's choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

It has been said that politics is the art of compromise. But these days in Washington, it seems to be more about collecting scalps. Wednesday was no exception.

During a four-hour examination, Rep. Tom Price repeatedly was accused of nefarious intentions regarding his finances and post-Obama healthcare.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) kicked things off by asking Price whether a stock tip from a fellow House member led him to invest in a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics.

“That's not what happened,” Price shot back. He insisted repeatedly that he never received information that could be considered insider information.

When Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) mentioned the congressman's prior holdings in tobacco companies, Price claimed he has "no idea" what stocks he actually owns.

By all accounts, no incriminating information was unearthed about a man who may soon be in charge of overseeing Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other health programs run by the government.

Which brings us to what Price is likely to do about the Affordable Care Act. As a frequent critic of the law, he certainly must have a few ideas. Yet he kept to a predictable but vague script when pressed about what's to come.

“We believe that it's absolutely imperative that individuals that have healthcare be able to keep health coverage and move hopefully to greater choices and opportunities for them to gain the kind of coverage that they want,” Price said.

The closest he came to revealing his cards came when Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN) inquired about President-elect Donald Trump's comments that repeal and replace should happen simultaneously.

“That's fair,” Price replied.

During his opening statement, Price noted that his healthcare background (he's also a practicing physician) helped him learn about “not just treating patients but about the broader healthcare system and where it intersects with government.”

He added he believes in these six principles of healthcare: “Affordability, accessibility, quality, responsiveness, innovation and choices.” How that view will affect new policies is anybody's guess.

All things considered, he did a pretty good job of keeping the barbarians at the gate. Nor did he embarrass the man who probably soon will be his boss. Anyone who expected to see more than that has obviously never seen a congressional hearing before.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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