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In an early-morning vote, the U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Rep. Tom Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A retired orthopedic surgeon, the conservative Republican from Georgia is a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 under President Obama. President Donald Trump, who nominated Price, and Republicans leaders in Congress are in the process of repealing the ACA (otherwise known as Obamacare), but have yet to announce a detailed plan to replace it.
Friday’s 2 a.m. vote of 52-47 was strictly along party lines and came after last-ditch efforts by Democrats to highlight the benefits of federal health programs, the Washington Post reported:
“Lacking the votes to defeat his confirmation, Democrats instead marshaled a war of words. They used the hours leading to the 2 a.m. roll call to read testimonials from Americans with severe, expensive-to-treat illnesses and gratitude to the ACA, Medicare or Medicaid — cornerstones of federal health policy that the Democrats accused the nominee of wanting to undermine.”
In addition to their concerns regarding changes to federal health programs and priorities under Price’s leadership, Democrats have raised red flags about the incoming HHS secretary’s investments in medical-related companies.
While Price also has been critical of what he has called excessive and onerous government reporting regulations for physicians, the former physician has voiced support for ongoing interoperability efforts.
In Senate testimony last month, Price said, “Electronic health records are so important because, from an innovation standpoint they allow the patient to have their health history with them at all times and be able to allow whatever physician or provider to have access to that. We in the federal government have a role in that, but that role ought to be interoperability: to make sure the different systems can talk to each other so it inures to the benefit of the patient.”