Dem Accusations About Tom Price Stock Trades Unsubstantiated
Congressional Democrats delayed the confirmation of Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.) to head the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday due in large part to unsubstantiated media reports citing conflicts of interest between the former congressman's health care-related financial holdings and legislative activity.
Democrats are concerned about Price's trading history with dozens of medical companies given his involvement with legislation they say would benefit those businesses directly.
Earlier this month, CNN published financial disclosure records showing that Price purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of shares in Zimmer Biomet, a leading medical device manufacturer, in March 2015. A week later, the report stated, the Georgia congressman introduced legislation that would have delayed a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that industry analysts said could have significant financial implications for the company.
Just hours after the report surfaced, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) penned a letter calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Price's holdings with Zimmer Biomet and determine whether he had violated ethics rules.
Price said the stock was purchased by his Morgan Stanley financial adviser without his knowledge.
Meanwhile, Zimmer Biomet has stated repeatedly that it was publicly opposed to Price's legislation.
Zimmer Biomet spokeswoman Monica Kendrick told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday that the company has "long-supported CMS-led efforts ... which strive to improve the quality of patient care," including the very regulation Price sought to prevent.
Price's HIP Act would have barred CMS from implementing a new payment model, called Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR), until 2018. When he introduced the legislation, Price said the regulation carried "tremendous risk and complexity for patients and health care providers."
"Rushing its implementation would be unreasonable and potentially detrimental to patients and their quality of care," Price said in March.
Kendrick cited two separate letters Zimmer Biomet and the Advanced Medical Technology Association, of which Zimmer Biomet is a member, sent to CMS in 2015 and 2016 recommending the CJR regulation as an "advanced alternative payment model."
"In addition, in 2016 we made a significant investment in our latest commercial innovation, Zimmer Biomet Signature Solutions, which is specifically designed to help health care providers and institutions succeed in CJR's value-based reimbursement model," she said.
Separately, Kendrick said the company "did not have any knowledge" of Price's personal stock purchases.
It is unclear when Price's confirmation vote will be rescheduled. Democrats ultimately lack the votes needed to block Price from becoming HHS secretary.