Too High a Price: 5 Reasons Family Equality Council Opposes Rep Tom Price’s Nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services

Too High a Price: 5 Reasons Family Equality Council Opposes Rep Tom Price’s Nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services

Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP Committee) held the first of two confirmation hearings for Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Price’s second hearing before the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled for January 24. Like other Trump nominees, we have serious concerns about Price’s anti-LGBTQ record and his extreme views on the very programs he would be charged with overseeing.  Thus, we strongly oppose Price’s nomination.

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As Secretary of HHS, Price would head the federal agency that oversees our nation’s healthcare and some of our most vital social service programs, touching the lives of more Americans — from newborn infants to senior citizens — than any other federal agency. As recently reported by The New York Times, “Price would be responsible for a department with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion, health programs that insure more than 100 million Americans, [including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”), Medicare, and Medicaid,] and agencies that regulate food and drugs and sponsor much of the nation’s biomedical research.”

Given the Trump Administration’s promise to repeal the ACA, an effort that is already underway in the new Congress, the new HHS Secretary will likely play a key role in dismantling the ACA and managing its replacement. Price has been one of the ACA’s fiercest critics and has proposed replacing the law with little more than individual tax credits and expansion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) while eliminating many of the ACA’s important consumer protections.

As Secretary of HHS, Price would oversee the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the federal agency that administers federal funding to and regulates the vast network of state child welfare agencies – a system in which there are a disproportionate number of LGBTQ youth and a shortage of qualified, foster and adoptive parents. Given that LGBTQ people have historically faced stigma and discrimination in the healthcare and child welfare systems, we are deeply concerned about the impact that a Price-headed HHS could have on LGBTQ people and families.

Price’s anti-LGBTQ record and his extreme health reform agenda are contrary to HHS’ mission “to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans.”  As Secretary of HHS, Price threatens to roll back significant advances made during the last 8 years including important nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people; coverage of transition-related care for transgender individuals; guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions such as HIV status; expansion of data collection and research within HHS to include LGBTQ people; and, prohibition of discrimination by HHS grant recipients, including those providing child welfare services.  If successful, Price’s healthcare reform agenda – to dismantle the ACA, privatize Medicare, make significant cuts to Medicaid and other safety net programs, and defund Planned Parenthood – could have disastrous consequences for LGBTQ people and millions of the most vulnerable Americans who could lose access to affordable healthcare.

For these reasons, and as demonstrated by the following list of the 5 things that we find most troubling in Price’s record, we believe Price is unfit to serve as Secretary of HHS:

  1. Price is fervently anti-equality.  He has called being gay a “lifestyle,” and while in Congress, he opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009; and, he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have prohibited sexual orientation-based discrimination in employment, and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included important protections for LGBTQ people.   Price also voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples, and he is on record after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality decision saying that the ruling was “not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.” More recently, Price called the Obama Administration’s federal guidance to schools to create a safe and supportive environment for transgender students “absurd.”
  2. Price supports discrimination against LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.  He is a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a dangerous so-called “religious liberty” bill that seeks to allow individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on their religious beliefs.
  3. Price supports repealing the ACA, and replacing it with a plan that threatens to leave millions of Americans uninsured or without quality, affordable healthcare.  Despite the fact that record numbers of Americans have access to affordable healthcare, Price is an ardent opponent of the ACA and has led the effort to repeal and replace it with a plan that many believe would be disastrous for those who are most vulnerable. While in Congress, Price has voted against the ACA more than 60 times, and he introduced his own replacement legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, which among other things would weaken existing protections for consumers, erode protections for people with pre-existing conditions, utilize discredited practices such as “high-risk” pools and individual tax credits, expand the use of health saving accounts which would primarily benefit the wealthy, and “roll back the federally financed expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia, taking coverage away from [millions of low-income] people.”  According to experts, Price’s plan would “likely leave many of the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the ACA uninsured or without needed care.”
  4. Price has supported efforts to privatize Medicare and cut Medicaid and other safety net programs that would result in a loss of coverage for millions of low-income Americans. Price supported a plan, along with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to privatize Medicare by turning it into a voucher program – a plan that would shift more of the cost for healthcare to seniors. And, last year, as leader of the House Budget Committee, Price led an effort fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid by converting it to a block grant program which “would institute deep cuts to federal funding for state Medicaid programs and threaten benefits for tens of millions of law-income families, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.”  While in Congress, Price also voted against the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, an important safety net program that provides healthcare to an estimated 8 million children from low-income families.
  5. Price supports defunding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of women’s healthcare in the country. Defunding such a critical provider of women’s health would leave millions of LGBTQ Americans and others without access to nondiscriminatory, preventative and essential healthcare.

For these reasons, we believe that Price is demonstrably unfit to serve as Secretary of HHS.  Just as we joined a letter along with almost 80 other national groups opposing Tom Prices’ nomination as HHS Secretary, we urge you to call your Senators and tell them #PriceIsWrong.

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