Tom Price made his name in Washington as a critic of Obamacare – in fact, he has a plan to dismantle it.
But he may not want to talk about that much when he testifies before Congress this week as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.
Price, a Georgia congressman and orthopedic surgeon, does not want the sole focus of his appearance before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday to be his own proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to a Trump transition official. He wants to avoid signaling that he is asking fellow lawmakers to endorse his plan to reform the country’s health care system.
In the lead-up to his confirmation hearings, Price has been kept out of the Trump transition team’s efforts to craft an Obamacare replacement plan. According to a senior transition official, the incoming administration wants Price to be inoculated from questions about what Trump’s alternative to the Affordable Care Act looks like when he faces probing senators this week.
To this end, Price is preparing to emphasize his readiness to shift from a policymaker to a Cabinet official overseeing and implementing policy, and plans to discuss his qualifications that are separate from his work on Obamacare replacement legislation.
“He’s been in a policy-making role in Congress for the last 12 years but that mindset is definitely going to shift as he moves over,” the official said.
The suggestion that Price does not want to lobby for his own Obamacare legislation is significant.
Trump, whose most urgent legislative priority as president is to overhaul President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, said over the weekend that his own plan is almost complete and that he will unveil it as soon as Price is confirmed.
The Price hearing comes as Republican lawmakers are also busy crafting a replacement blueprint, although a consensus alternative to the current health care system has yet to emerge.
The legislation Price previously put forth would give tax credits for people to buy insurance on the individual market, offer incentives to put money away in health savings accounts and limit the tax advantages of employer-sponsored plans. His proposal overlaps with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal, and also shares similarities with Trump’s vision for health care reform.
Price is also preparing to confront a slew of questions about potential conflicts of interest and his past financial investments.
He has been criticized for investing in health companies while pursuing legislation that could influence those very firms. CNN reported Monday Price purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer last year, just days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company.
As Price prepares for potentially contentious hearings, a transition official emphasized that the team is not taking anything for granted ahead of his confirmation. Price must also testify before the Senate Finance Committee, which has not yet set a hearing date and will vote on his nomination.
“It’s all about the confirmation. Nobody’s looking past that date,” the transition official said.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.