Rep. Tom Price, in addition to wanting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and being part of an anti-science physicians organization, has some serious conflicts of interest that should, at the very least, disqualify him from taking over as Secretary of Health & Human Services. Similar to the President-elect who chose him, Price appears to think using public policy to increase personal wealth is a nice perk of serving in office.
Last year, Price bought between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of shares of Zimmer Bionet, a hip and knee replacement manufacturer that was about to be negatively affected by a Medicare and Medicaid Services Regulation. Days after the purchase, Price introduced the HIP act, legislation that would’ve delayed the regulation until 2018.
According to CNN, “After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet and other companies relief from the CMS regulation, the company’s political action committee donated to the congressman’s reelection campaign, records show.”
In addition, Price also has a large number of shares in a tiny pharmaceutical company in Australia called Innate Immunotherapeutics. Congressional liaison to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team, Representative Chris Collins, is the company’s largest shareholder. This connection is raising eyebrows for a number of reasons, most notably that it seems weird for a company with only one medication to have such high profile backers.
According to the New York Times, “Mr. Collins and Mr. Price have both been active in shaping health care legislation, and both voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was backed by the pharmaceutical industry and included measures that would allow the F.D.A. to approve drugs more quickly.”
Collins and Price could be trying to give the Australian drug company the power to fast-track future drugs or could’ve been incentivized by additional companies to help the FDA approve drugs more quickly. Either way, Price is abusing his position and the trust that comes with it.
What would Price do with even more power?
Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a consumer group, has asked for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission saying “it’s got to be taken a look at. It’s just so suspicious, someone’s got to ask, ‘What just happened?’”
News also surfaced that the CEO of one of Price’s top donors, biotech company MiMedx, was sending emails to his staff demanding donations for Price. MiMedx is in Price’s district and had received “help navigating regulatory waters” from Price in the past.
All of these apparent conflicts of interest are more than just coincidence.