Price confirmed as HHS secretary

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HHS Secretary Tom Price
HHS Secretary Tom Price

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was sworn in as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday hours after being confirmed by a party-line 52-47 vote in the Senate.

American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson said his organization is looking forward to working with him.

“His healthcare expertise and emphasis on patient-centered care will help us build upon our ongoing efforts to provide quality long-term and post-acute care to the elderly and individuals with disabilities,” Parkinson said on Friday.

“He can start having a positive impact almost as soon as he's confirmed,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Thursday, urging the body's approval of Price.

Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a Washington-based consulting firm, told Kaiser Health News that Price likely will scale back, delay or cancel projects related to new payment models, such as bundled payments for hip and knee replacements, that was launched via the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that was created by the Affordable Care Act. Price has been a critic of such experiments in the past, Mendelson said.

Indeed, noting that Price recently introduced a fiscal 2017 budget resolution to repeal the ACA and revamp the Medicare and Medicaid programs, LeadingAge said in November that those efforts likely would be Price's priorities as HHS secretary if his appointment were confirmed by the Senate.

“Rep. Price also is known for his anti-regulatory views and introduced bipartisan legislation that we support to delay the ‘pre-review' process for home health claims pending a comprehensive review by HHS of the potential impact,” the organization said in a statement at the time.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday before the vote that he would fight what he described as a plan by Price and some others in Congress to “gut” Medicare by turning it into a voucher-based, privatized system. “Medicare is enormously popular because it works. It delivers affordable and vital healthcare to our seniors, and it needs to be strengthened, not put on the chopping block,” he said.

With his medical background and service in the House of Representatives, where he was chairman of the House Budget Committee and a member of the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, Price “brings expertise and familiarity with issues facing America's seniors and their families,” Maribeth Bersani, chief operating officer and senior vice president of public policy for Argentum, had said in November, when Trump first announced the former orthopedic surgeon as his pick for HHS secretary.

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