Tom Price‚Äôs resignation as health and human services secretary Friday ended an inglorious and brief tenure. Though his arrogant waste of taxpayer money on chartered plane trips brought him down, his more serious failure was in policy - and belongs to the entire administration. Shortly before Price resigned, President Donald Trump raised the possibility of striking a deal with Democrats to fix the health-care system. Price, a hard-charging partisan Republican, would no doubt have been a roadblock. Trump should find someone less motivated by ideology, shift gears and work to actually improve health care for all Americans.
Price was a leading voice for pulling apart Obamacare using partisan tactics in Congress and sabotage in the executive branch. Instead of encouraging people to sign up for coverage, Price used public money to pummel Obamacare, often blaming the law for problems the administration itself created or exacerbated. He insisted that Republicans were not cutting Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor and near-poor, when the House had just passed a bill containing a massive Medicaid cut. He claimed that the GOP‚Äôs American Health Care Act would result in more people getting better coverage, when the Congressional Budget Office found that 24 million more would go uninsured - a report Price called ‚Äúnot believable‚ÄĚ even as he admitted he had not read it. He insisted that Obamacare‚Äôs requirement that all Americans obtain health coverage raised health-care costs, when the opposite is true.
Statements such as these were unbecoming to the country‚Äôs health-care policy chief, and they shredded whatever credibility he brought to the office. They also heightened the uncertainty that has upset the insurance markets on which millions rely for coverage. There were other, less visible problems. Price‚Äôs HHS recently slashed outreach efforts encouraging people to sign up for health insurance and warned that healthcare.gov might be down for maintenance at crucial times during Obamacare open enrollment. Both are major issues because Price cut in half the open enrollment period. He also rolled back important initiatives to drive down wasteful Medicare spending.
Trump should appoint someone willing to take a different approach.