Representative Tom Price, a U.S. Representative from Georgia, was nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) by President-elect Donald Trump. The nation’s top health official, the Secretary of HHS leads the important work of implementing laws, programs, and initiatives that directly affect the health and well-being of all people, and most especially women, in our country. These include the Affordable Care Act – which eliminates sex discrimination in health care and ensures that women receive comprehensive affordable health insurance; the Medicaid program – which has given low-income women and their families necessary health coverage across all stages of life for more than 50 years; and Medicare – a literal lifeline for older women. The Secretary of HHS oversees other critical programs as well that help alleviate poverty and expand opportunity for low- and moderate-income women and families, including vital services for seniors and people with disabilities and heating assistance for struggling families. Rep. Price’s record of seeking to weaken these very programs, placing ideology over the health and well-being of people in our country and his lack of understanding of the challenges facing the majority of Americans demonstrate that he should not be confirmed to this important position.
Rep. Price has a record of seeking to dismantle the very health care programs he would be charged with implementing. He has a record of extreme positions, out of line with the public, including on reproductive health care and LGBTQ rights. Instead of ensuring that low- and middle-income families have the critical supports they need, Rep. Price has been at the forefront of slashing the social safety net; his last budget took nearly two-thirds of its cuts from programs that serve low- and moderate-income individuals and families. These extreme views show that confirming Rep. Price as Secretary of HHS would be devastating to the health and well-being of people across the country. Rep. Price should not be confirmed for the position of Secretary of HHS.
- Rep. Price would get rid of the Affordable Care Act and all of the important gains women have made in health care and health insurance. Rep. Price has led the charge to simply eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and along with it all of the important gains it provides women in health care and health insurance without proposing any true substitute. He sponsored and pushed the 2015 budget reconciliation bill that would have gutted key provisions of the ACA had it not been for President Obama’s veto. In total, he has supported 65 attempts to repeal the law. His replacement bill, the “Empowering Patients First Act,” contained none of the provisions in the ACA most important to women’s health. For example, the bill did not ban the insurance industry practice of charging women more than men, it did not require coverage of services important to women like maternity care and women’s preventive services, and it would not stop insurance companies from refusing to provide coverage for people with “pre-existing conditions,” including women who have given birth via cesarean delivery or received treatment for rape or domestic violence.
- Rep. Price would roll back Medicaid coverage. As HHS Secretary, Rep. Price would oversee the administration of Medicaid, but he has a history of working to cut HHS’s administrative and funding roles in that program. The 2015 budget reconciliation bill that Rep. Price sponsored removed funding for Medicaid expansion, which has benefited millions of low-income people, disproportionately women. The House of Representatives proposed budget for 2017, which Rep. Price oversaw as budget chair, sought to block-grant Medicaid, cutting funding by more than $1 trillion over a decade and significantly restructuring the program to allow states to limit eligibility, reduce or eliminate services, and lower provider payment rates.
- Rep. Price has proposed cutting many of the low-income programs he would oversee as Secretary. As Secretary of HHS, Rep. Price would oversee numerous government programs that are critical in supporting vulnerable populations, such as Head Start, child care assistance, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Social Services Block Grant, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Rep. Price, however, has a history of proposing cuts to these programs. For example, although low-income programs account for just 28 percent of total non-defense program spending and just 24 percent of total spending, the FY 2017 budget plan approved by his committee would take nearly two-thirds of its cuts from low-income programs. The brunt of these proposed cuts would be borne by women, who are more likely than men to be poor at all stages of their lives due to ongoing employment discrimination, overrepresentation in low-wage jobs, and greater responsibilities for unpaid caregiving.
- Rep. Price has voted to cut an essential health care provider out of federal programs, which would leave individuals without the care they need. The Secretary of HHS has responsibility over key federal programs, including Medicaid and Title X, that ensure individuals receive important preventive care, such as birth control, breast exams, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Rep. Price has voted repeatedly to block Planned Parenthood from participation, which raises serious concerns about his ability to administer these programs. Voting to shut down Planned Parenthood also demonstrates that he places ideology over individual access to health care, since if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, it is estimated that 390,000 women would lose access to preventive care within a year and up to 650,000 would face additional barriers to care.
- Rep. Price doesn’t believe women need birth control coverage. Rep. Price opposes the health care law’s requirement that insurance plans cover birth control alongside other preventive services without additional cost to the individual. When asked about the benefit, he falsely stated that “there’s not one woman” who would be unable to access birth control without insurance coverage. In fact, a recent study found that 20.2 million women in the U.S. were in need of publicly funded family planning services like birth control. Rep. Price’s comments, by either refusing to recognize the facts or purposely misstating them, demonstrate he cannot reliably fulfill the Secretary of HHS’s role of implementing the health care law’s birth control benefit and the other programs under HHS purview that provide women with low-cost or free birth control.
- Rep. Price would allow religion to override patient access to health services. Rep. Price has been willing to allow the religion of others to override women’s own religious beliefs and ability to access health services in dramatic new ways. In Congress, Rep. Price voted for a major expansion of existing federal laws that allow institutions and individual health care providers to refuse to provide women with abortion care. Therefore, rather than demonstrate that as Secretary of HHS Rep. Price would promote women’s access to reproductive health care, his record indicates he would put HHS energy and priorities behind seeking to undermine them by expanding religious refusal laws.
- Rep. Price opposes LGBTQ rights. Rep. Price’s record of support for policies that discriminate on the basis of sex, includes extreme positions against LGBTQ rights. In addition to supporting legislation that would allow discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, he has co-sponsored Constitutional amendments to define marriage as between one man and one woman. When the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing the right of same sex couples to get married, Price called it “a sad day for marriage.” Rep. Price’s record calls into serious question his ability to fulfill the HHS Secretary role of implementing law – such as the law prohibiting discrimination in health care on the basis of gender identity – and administering programs – such as those that provide critical funding for HIV research and treatment – that benefit LGBTQ individuals.
Rep. Price’s extreme views and positions over more than a decade as a U.S. representative show that he is a dangerous nominee Secretary of HHS. Our nation’s top health official should expand and protect access to health care and income supports, not undermine it.