Price Resigns from HHS After Facing Firestorm for Flights


Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price resigned today (Friday, September 29th) in the face of multiple federal inquiries and growing criticism of his use of private and government planes for travel, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 million since May.

The White House said the former seven-term Georgia congressman, 63, offered his resignation earlier in the day and that the President had accepted it.

The private plane travel controversy had quickly picked up speed this week as the press continued to find more proof of jets being chartered for sometimes small distances, when cheaper commercial flights were readily available. And, that Price was using the flights for personal travel, frequently taking along his wife.

Prices' resignation is certain to bring more uncertainty for the healthcare industry, which has already been struggling with unknowns regarding potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, did not have time to leave much of a footprint at HHS. He was, however, beginning to act on long-expressed desires for deregulation. HHS scaled back mandatory bundled payment programs and declared it was exploring a “new direction” for the CMS innovation center that it said would focus more on giving providers freedom and flexibility.

The agency also sent a request for information asking healthcare professionals to recommend ways to reduce reporting and regulatory burdens.

Price becomes the first Trump administration Cabinet secretary to step down. The White House said that the President had asked Deputy Assistant Health Secretary Don Wright to serve as acting secretary of the agency, which has an annual budget $1.15 trillion and includes the Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as the FDA, NIH and CDC.

Wright joined HHS since 2007. He has previously served as deputy assistant secretary for healthcare quality and as director of the U.S Department of Labor Office of Occupational Medicine. Wright was in private practice for 15 years before his government positions. He is board certified in family medicine and preventive medicine.

(Source: Peter Barker, New York Times[9/29/2017] │ Shannon Muchmore, Healthcare Dive [9/29/2019])