Tom Price is out at HHS

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Friday, September 29, 2017

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, a long-time champion of the HME industry, will resign effective 11:59 p.m. today, Friday, Sept. 29.

The resignation comes amidst growing criticism of Price’s use of charter flights instead of commercial flights to travel to government engagements. Politico, which broke the story of Price’s costly travel, estimated that the price tag for these trips was more than $400,000.

On Thursday, Price announced that he would reimburse the government for a fraction of the costs of his flights. But on Friday, he offered his letter of resignation.

“I have spent 40 years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first,” he wrote. “I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from important objectives” like reforming health care.

President Donald Trump will designate Don Wright as acting secretary, according to news reports. Wright, described by Forbes as a “more establishment” government official, currently serves as the deputy assistant secretary for health, and director of the Office of Diseases Prevention and Health Promotion.

Price’s resignation comes at an unfortunate time for the HME industry. With Price at the helm of HHS, CMS had sent an interim final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for clearance that would provide much-needed relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program.

Already, under Price’s direction at HHS, CMS decided to stop planned bid-related cuts to accessories for complex rehab power wheelchairs, among other changes beneficial to the HME industry.

As a congressman, Price introduced bills to create an alternative to the competitive bidding program, called the market-pricing program. Tenets of MPP include requiring providers to fulfill their contracts and putting out to bid only two product categories per bid area (with the remaining product categories adopting the price submitted by contract suppliers in other areas of equal size).

Price has also introduced bills to soften the blow of the recent national roll out of competitive bidding by providing a 30% increase in reimbursement over the bidding-derived prices and a four-year phase-in period, and reinstating the bid cap at the unadjusted fee schedule amount.