Health Secretary Tom Price had his investments in drug companies questioned during his confirmation hearings, but it wasn’t enough to derail his confirmation. However, journalists have kept digging, and it appears, more and more, that Price is not done with questions about his portfolio just yet.
At issue is that while Price was working on health care legislation, his stockbroker also bought thousands of dollars in stock in drug companies with a direct stake in blocking the exact laws Price was dealing with at the time. In other words, Price had a financial stake in whether the law, Medicare Part B drug reform, passed: The proposed rule would have changed how drugs were paid for, requiring physicians to opt for cheaper medications that were equally effective. It was controversial, as legislators were torn between the need to control drug prices and the concern over access to life-saving but rare treatments.
The records show that Price may have done some lobbying to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services over the law. In particular, a phone call about another issue had discussion of the issue added at the last minute:
The same day as the stock trade, Price’s legislative aide, Carla DiBlasio, emailed health officials to follow up on a request she had made to set up a call with Patrick Conway, the agency’s chief medical officer. In her earlier emails, DiBlasio said the call would focus on payments for joint replacement procedures. But that day, she mentioned a new issue. “Chairman Price may briefly bring up … his concerns about the new Part B drug demo, as well,” she wrote.
Nor is this the only concern ProPublica unearthed. Price’s former chief of staff and a former aide both lobbying against the law, and Price, who claims he had no idea his broker had purchased those stocks, signed disclosure forms soon after with the purchases listed on them. It’s not conclusive proof that Price acted unethically, of course, or even illegally. But it raises new questions about his financial dealings right on the eve of the Trump administration releasing financial disclosures about White House staff.