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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was among those to grill Rep. Tom Price at his confirmation hearing to become Health and Human Services secretary on Wednesday. (Screenshot)

Trump's Pick for Top Healthcare Post Makes It Clear: Safety Net No Longer Safe

HHS nominee Tom Price was questioned on Medicare and Medicaid, his investments, and more on Wednesday. He provided few straight answers. 

Deirdre Fulton

As tens of millions of Americans face losing their health insurance under a Republican-led Congress, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price, refused to clearly tell a Senate committee how critical healthcare safety net programs would fare under his leadership. 

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Wednesday, Rep. Price (R-Ga.) danced around questions related to Medicare and Medicaid cuts, health coverage for young people and people with pre-existing conditions, and his financial investments. During his time in the House of Representatives, Price has fought to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood, along with other conservative priorities. He's also bought and sold stock in a number of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies while voting on legislation that could impact those companies' bottom line. 

All these aspects of his record came up at Wednesday's hearing. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled Price on his previous proposals to cut Medicare and Medicaid spending—but couldn't get a straight answer as to whether he would honor the president-elect's campaign promises not to cut those programs:

In a video posted online Wednesday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also highlighted the differences between Trump and his HHS pick on Medicare cuts:

Sanders didn't miss his chance to take on Price during Wednesday's hearing, resulting in a heated exchange over whether healthcare is a human right:

Price also "wouldn't give a direct answer under questioning from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) about whether Price agrees with President-elect Trump's call for Medicare to negotiate drug prices," The Hill reported

"Well I understand that if I'm confirmed and if I have the privilege of serving as secretary that the boss that I have will be the president of the United States," Price said in response to Baldwin's query.

She then asked the question again.

"Following discussion and being informed by the individuals within the department and working with the president, and then carrying out his wishes," Price said.

"Was that a yes? Or was that a no?" Baldwin pressed.

"Well it depends on that activity," Price said.

When it was her turn, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) highlighted Price's anti-women record:

Murray, Warren, and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) were among those senators who raised questions about Price's investments and stock trading. 

The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will not vote on Price's nomination. He will also sit before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on his confirmation. 

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