Millions of Reasons – Plus One Big One – To Block Tom Price’s Nomination

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Millions of Reasons – Plus One Big One – To Block Tom Price’s Nomination

Health and Human Services secretary nominee Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A school bus driver living in Slatington, Pa., writes that three years ago she was beginning to feel ill, but thought nothing of it until one morning, while checking the bus before starting her route, her fingers went numb.

She had just signed up for a health insurance plan through the Pennsylvania-run marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. She dropped her “old, useless insurance” a few months earlier because even with sky-high premiums she could no longer afford, “the insurer denied every claim I sent in because they said it was due to a pre-existing condition.”

“That January I had a Highmark Blue Shield silver plan. I paid $55 for the premium with the tax credit. I almost cried when I saw it,” she wrote. “I thought ‘Oh my god, I can actually afford this. It’s amazing!'”

Two months later, she was in the emergency room. “They found my hemoglobin level was 5.7, and the normal is 14. I needed a transfusion. It was due to a rare blood disorder called Cold Agglutinin Disease, which is affected by the cold weather, and by illness and fever. It causes hemolytic anemia.

“Where would I be without Obamacare? ER, 3 units of blood, multiple tests in the hospital and a five-day inpatient stay without insurance? Probably dead.”

That’s just one of more than 600 stories submitted by people all over the country within 24 hours after People’s Action asked its supporters to tell what the Affordable Care Act meant to them and why Congress should not repeal it.

The stories range from Sue from Wasilla, Alaska – where the infamous Republican vice-presidential candidate and staunch Obamacare opponent Sarah Palin was mayor – who writes “I could very well die” without the sleep apnea machine she was able to obtain through the Affordable Care Act, to the former Waterford, Mich. nurse who before she had to retire from nursing because of knee surgery “saw first-hand the devastation of women forgoing health care because they had no insurance and had to choose between health care and feeding their families.”

These stories surface as the Senate begins hearings on Tom Price, the Georgia congressman named by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

People’s Action on Tuesday launched a petition drive calling on Congress to “stop Tom Price” from being confirmed as HHS secretary.

At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on Tuesday that said that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 27 million people would lose health insurance coverage within the first couple of years, and insurance premiums in the individual market would be 20 percent to 25 percent higher than they would be otherwise, eventually rising to 50 percent higher in 10 years.

That was based on an analysis of a bill sponsored by Price in 2015 and passed by Republicans in Congress.

Price was not only a leading opponent of the Affordable Care Act in the House, but offered a replacement plan that would have had devastating effects for millions of people who need health care. Price favors eliminating many of the rules and regulations that protect health consumers and keep doctors honest, at the same time he supports turning Medicare over to rapacious private insurance companies. He wants to cut Medicaid funding and give states more latitude to limit the access to care low-income people can get.

Trump has claimed that he will offer a health care plan that would provide “insurance for everybody” with “lower numbers [premiums], much lower deductibles,” but the choice of Price as the person who would shape and administer the replacement of the Affordable Care Act tells the real story of what health care could look like in the Trump era if his plans are not thwarted.

But the one thing that could and absolutely should sink Price’s nomination is the stunning set of conflict of interest reports surrounding Price.

Last week’s report from CNN that Price purchased stock in a medical device company one month before introducing a bill that would directly benefit that company was the latest in a series of reports of Price buying stock in the medical companies he oversaw as a legislative leader in the House. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Price traded $300,000 worth of shares of stock in health care companies that stood to benefit from legislation he championed.

The Stock Act prohibits legislators from buying an interest in companies they know will benefit from bills moving through Congress. Price denies that he violated the law. But he should not get away with denying that this kind of ethical corruption, compounded by the immorality of working to keep people from the health care they need in order to boost his own wealth, makes Price a totally unacceptable steward of our nation’s health and safety-net programs.

As Price faces Congress, People’s Action is among dozens of organizations that are working to stop the Price nomination, conducting everything from rallies and shadow hearings to call-Congress sessions. To join People’s Action’s effort to stop the Price nomination, sign this petition.

Isaiah Poole

Isaiah Poole

Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of the  OurFuture.org blog since 2007 and is also communication director for People's Action.

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