8 Things to Know About Tom Price, Donald Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services

Price wants to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, and overhaul Medicare and Medicaid.

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The Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia, to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services in a vote that took place around 2 a.m. on Friday. The vote fell along party lines, as Senate Democrats objected to Price's views on healthcare policy — including his calls to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, and overhaul Medicare and Medicaid — as well as his investments in healthcare companies while serving in Congress.

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Republicans celebrated the confirmation vote.

Price, 62, will oversee a sprawling department with a $1 trillion budget that includes Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), the Centers for Disease Control, and regulations over the nation's food and drugs.

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Here's what you need to know about Price:

1. He is an orthopedic surgeon.

Price was born in Lansing, Michigan, attended college and medical school at the University of Michigan, and did his residency at Emory University in Atlanta, according to his congressional biography. He spent 20 years in private practice in Atlanta and served as medical director of the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital. He was also an assistant professor at Emory University's School of Medicine.

In 1996, Price was elected to the Georgia Senate, holding office until he was elected to Congress to 2004, representing Georgia's sixth district, a collection of suburbs north of Atlanta.

The New York Times reported that Price entered politics because, he said, officials in Washington and Atlanta with no medical experience were making decisions that affected the care of his patients. According to the Times:

[Price] has introduced legislation that would make it easier for doctors to defend themselves against medical malpractice lawsuits and to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries. Under such contracts, doctors can, in effect, opt out of Medicare and charge more than the amounts normally allowed by the program's rules.

He has expressed pride in joining fellow conservatives to fight against the "vile liberal agenda that is threatening everything we hold dear as Americans," according to the Washington Post.

In Congress, Price, who is part of the Tea Party Caucus, is chairman of the House Committee on the Budget.

2. He's a fierce opponent of Obamacare.

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Price has led the Republicans' effort to roll back Obamacare, helping draft legislation to replace the law. Obamacare, he said in 2010, "will have a disastrous effect on our nation's healthcare system," according to the Times.

He believes, according to NPR, that Obamacare puts government in between the doctor and the patient. "They believe the government ought to be in control of healthcare," Price said in June. "We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of healthcare."

The legislation he has drafted to replace Obamacare, called the Empowering Patients First Act, would provide refundable tax credits — adjusted based on a person's age — to buy individual or family health insurance policies if a person can't get insurance through his or her employer or a government program, according to the Wall Street Journal. His proposal would also allow people to buy insurance across state lines, which proponents say increases competition and drives down the price.

Two of the most popular parts of Obamacare that Trump supports — rules that require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions and allow young people to stay on their parents' policies until they're 26 — would largely stay the same under Price's latest plan to replace the law, according to The Guardian.

But the subsidies, The Guardian continued, wouldn't be as generous as those offered under Obamacare, and buying plans across state lines could benefit the healthy:

Purchasing across state lines could allow young people to purchase inexpensive, less comprehensive health plans and leave a sicker population in highly regulated states.

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But Price's plan, according to Jonathan Oberlander, PhD, a professor at the University of North Carolina who studies health policy, would strike a blow to many of the 20 million people insured under Obamacare, because the tax credits would fail to help many people afford insurance.

"If you repeal [Obamacare] and put one of those replacement plans into law, we're going to go backwards," he told The Guardian. "We're going to go back to that world where millions of Americans certainly couldn't afford [insurance]."

3. He opposes Obamacare's birth control mandate.

A provision in Obamacare requires insurers to cover birth control without a copay, but Price is against the measure, saying it infringes on religious liberties, according to The Atlantic, which notes that the law doesn't require women to take birth control.

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By dropping this part of the law, millions of women might be unable to afford birth control, according to a 2010 survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood. In 2012, however, Price said he doubts there are women who can't afford their birth control.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, a reporter for ThinkProgress asked Price:

One of the main sticking points is whether or not contraceptive coverage is going to be covered under health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether they're going to be able to pay for it, especially low-income women… where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?

Price responded: "Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There's not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country."

4. And he is strongly pro-life.

Price opposes abortion rights, according to NPR. In Congress, he has voted against federal funding for abortion and funding for groups like Planned Parenthood. In 2007, he voted for a bill granting equal protection under the 14th Amendment to unborn babies, which would ban abortions nationwide in almost all cases.

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The New York Times pointed out that Price received 100 percent ratings from the National Right to Life Committee and a score of zero from Planned Parenthood.

"Tom Price poses a grave threat to women's health in this country," Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Trump's choice of Price as secretary of Health and Human Services sends "a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care."

Ahead of his confirmation vote, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, called Price "a rabid supporter of defunding Planned Parenthood"

5. He is against same-sex marriage.

When the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide in 2015, Price said, according to The New York Times, it was "not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances."

In Congress, Price has voted against legislation meant to prevent job discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to NPR. He is also in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, said Price was "completely unfit" to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

6. His wife is also a doctor and politician.

Price is married to Elizabeth "Betty" Clark, who was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in July 2015, according to her Georgia House bio. She practiced medicine for 20 years, working as an anesthesiologist. Price and Clark met while working at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Together, they have one adult son, Robert Price.

7. He invested in healthcare companies while pushing policies to benefit them.

Since 2012, Price has bought and sold stock in about 40 healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biomedical companies, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal. As a congressman with positions on a number of committees that shape healthcare policy, Price advanced legislation that benefited about six of those companies in the last year, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Price has maintained that his stockbroker made all of these investments without him knowing about it. And, as CNN pointed out, Price has investments in a diverse number of companies, including Facebook, Boeing, and Phillips 66.

"Everything that I did was ethical, aboveboard, legal, and transparent," Price said.

But Price's own testimony during his confirmation hearings seems to contradict part of this explanation. In one instance, he invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in an Australian biotech company — his largest single investment — whose biggest shareholder and member of its board of directors is Price's colleague, Chris Collins, a Republican representative from New York, according to the Journal. Price said Collins told him about the company and that he could invest at a discount price.

Democrats wanted an investigation of Price over concerns that he violated a law meant to prevent lawmakers from using non-public information for public benefit. But the investigation never materialized.

"While Congressman Price served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he traded in healthcare stocks, pushed policies that helped his portfolio, and got special access to a promising stock deal," said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.

8. He belongs to a doctor's organizations with some unusual views.

Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which, according to The Washington Post, "opposes Medicare, the government's health insurance for older Americans, and it offers extensive training to doctors on how to opt out of the program." The group is also against mandatory vaccination, which it calls the "equivalent to human experimentation."

During his confirmation hearing, Price was specifically asked whether he thinks vaccines cause autism, a widely debunked claim. Price responded, "I think the science in that instance is that they don't."

Democrats fear Price will gut Medicare as well as Medicaid, a government program that provides health insurance for people in need.

"Buying and selling healthcare stocks as a member of Congress while you're voting and helping those companies, that's bad enough," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio. "But what he wants to do to maybe the greatest program in American history, Medicare, is much, much worse."

Price has not indicated he plans to scrap or, as some democratic activists have suggested, "phase out" Medicare. He has suggested an overhaul of the programs, which could, according to Politifact, "dramatically change how Medicare works."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From: Cosmopolitan
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