Tom Price is out as HHS secretary

Rep. Tom Price HHSTom Price has resigned from his post as U.S. health and human services secretary after days of fending off criticism over chartered flights he took on the public dime.

The announcement today out of the White House said Don J. Wright – presently assistant secretary for health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion – will take over as acting secretary.

The announcement came soon after President Donald Trump, at his Bedminster, N.J. gold course, told reporters that he didn’t like the “optics” around the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on Price’s flights – and that he was “not happy,” according to media reports in the Washington Post, Associated Press and elsewhere. Trump had publicly expressed similar unhappiness earlier this week.

Price yesterday tried to defuse the scandal by offering to personally pay for the cost of his seat on the planes. The distances of some flights had been as short at Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia.

“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers,” Price said in an HHS news release. “It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.”

Price’s statement was apparently not enough. His departure throws another wrench into Trump and congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Price – a longtime ACA critic when he was a U.S. representative from Georgia – had been a point person for rolling back executive branch efforts to promote Obamacare while his former GOP colleagues in Congress tried to kill and replace the program for good. The future of both efforts is now unclear.

The post Tom Price is out as HHS secretary appeared first on MassDevice.

How did it come to this? Ryan and Trump pull healthcare bill after coming up short on votes.

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan answers questions at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol after President Trump’s healthcare bill was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Despite days of intense negotiations and last-minute concessions to win over wavering GOP conservatives and moderates, House Republican leaders Friday failed to secure enough support to pass their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill from consideration after he rushed to the White House to tell President Donald Trump that there weren’t the 216 votes necessary for passage.

“We came really close today, but we came up short,” he told reporters at a hastily called news conference.

Advertisement

When pressed about what happens to the federal health law, he added, “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

Ryan originally had hoped to hold a floor vote on the measure Thursday — timed to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the ACA — but decided to delay that effort because GOP leaders didn’t have enough “yes” votes. The House had been in session Friday while members debated parts of the bill.

The legislation was damaged by a variety of issues raised by competing factions of the party. Many members were spooked by reports by the Congressional Budget Office showing that the bill would lead eventually to 24 million people losing insurance, while some moderate Republicans worried that ending the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would hurt low-income Americans.

At the same time, conservatives, especially the hard-right House Freedom Caucus that often has needled party leaders, complained that the bill kept too much of the ACA structure in place. They wanted a straight repeal of Obamacare, but party leaders said that couldn’t pass the Senate, where Republicans don’t have enough votes to stop a filibuster. So they chose to use a complicated legislative strategy called budget reconciliation that would allow them to repeal only parts of the ACA that affect federal spending.

The decision came after a chaotic week of negotiations, as party leaders sought to woo more conservatives. Trump personally lobbied 120 members through personal meetings or phone calls, according to a count provided Friday by his spokesman, Sean Spicer. “The president and the team here have left everything on the field,” Spicer said.

On Thursday evening, Trump dispatched Office of Management and Development Director Mick Mulvaney to tell his former House GOP colleagues that the president wanted a vote on Friday. It was time to move on to other priorities, including tax reform, he told House Republicans.

“He said the president needs this, the president has said he wants a vote tomorrow, up or down. If for any reason it goes down, we’re just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda. This is our moment in time,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-New York), a loyal Trump ally, told reporters late Thursday. “If it doesn’t pass, we’re moving beyond health care. … We are done negotiating.”

Trump’s edict clearly irked some lawmakers, including the Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), whose group of more than two dozen members represented the strongest bloc against the measure.

“Anytime you don’t have 216 votes, negotiations are not totally over,” he told reporters who had surrounded him in a Capitol basement hallway as he headed into the party’s caucus meeting.

Shortly before Ryan’s press conference, Trump called Washington Post reporter Robert Costa to say they were pulling the bill back from consideration. Costa said the president seemed at ease with the decision and did not blame Ryan for the defeat.

Trump, Ryan and other GOP lawmakers tweaked their initial package in a variety of ways to win over both conservatives and moderates. But every time one change was made to win votes in one camp, it repelled support in another.

The White House on Thursday accepted conservatives’ demands that the legislation strip federal guarantees of essential health benefits in insurance policies. But that was another problem for moderates, and Democrats suggested the provision would not survive in the Senate.

Republican moderates in the House — as well as the Senate — objected to the bill’s provisions that would shift Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a set amount of funding for states that would also give governors and state lawmakers more flexibility over the program. Moderates also were concerned that the package’s tax credits would not be generous enough to help older Americans — who could be charged five times more for coverage than their younger counterparts — afford coverage.

The House package also lost the support of key GOP allies, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action. Physician, patient and hospital groups also opposed it.

It’s not clear what will happen next to the Republican effort to overturn or modify Obamacare. But White House officials told members Thursday that if they couldn’t pass the legislation, the president wanted to turn to other priorities, including tax reform. “The president understands this is it,” Spicer said. “We had this opportunity to — to change the trajectory of health care, to help improve — put a health care system in place and to end the nightmare that Republicans have campaigned on called Obamacare.”

The top medtech stories of early 2017

  • Little or no audit preparation common device QMS problem

    By Stewart Eisenhart, Emergo Group In the second in a series of blog posts examining common problems medical device firms deal with related to quality management system audits, Emergo discusses how lack of proper internal audit preparation leads to last-minute scrambles and business headaches. Get the full story here at the Emergo Group’s blog. The […]

  • House delays vote on Trumpcare bill

    The U.S. House of Representatives today indefinitely delayed its vote on the Trumpcare legislation, which looks to begin dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with a GOP-supported framework. The Trump administration and the GOP had hoped the day would signal a significant turn for conservatives, with Trump and House Republican leaders planning the vote on the […]

  • How Phononic is upping the game on hospital refrigeration

    Solid-state heating and cooling technology company Phononic recently got its Evolve refrigerators into the new North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital at UNC Rex in Raleigh, N.C. UNC Rex Healthcare is using a combination of 1.8 and 5.5 CuFt Evolve refrigerators in its pharmacy, patient support areas and medicine rooms in conjunction with medication management systems, […]

  • This Trumpf laser could solve your UDI compliance problems

    Trumpf is touting a new laser and software module that enables UDI marking from a single source. Medical device makers can create corrosion-resistant marks on highly reflective materials using ultra-short pulsed lasers. By combining a marking laser with a UDI software module, Trumpf offers both components from a single source. This helps manufacturers to comply with […]

  • The stem cell ‘skin gun’ that’s aiming to disrupt wound care

    RenovaCare’s SkinGun uses a patient’s own stem cells to heal their wounds faster and more efficiently than a traditional skin graft. Pennsylvania state police officer Matthew Uram suffered severe second-degree burns to his face, right arm and leg after a friend’s bonfire got out of control. Uram was facing months of painful skin grafts, the […]

  • The stem cell therapy that could reverse hearing loss

    Frequency Therapeutics is betting that it can change the lives of millions of Americans with hearing loss through a cell therapy that triggers the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Researchers have used cells in regenerative medicine for decades – in 1931, the father of cell therapy, Paul Niehans, treated a patient with material from […]

  • Trump proposes higher FDA fees for drug, medical device FDA registrants

    By Stewart Eisenhart, Emergo Group US Food and Drug Administration user fee increases in the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 federal budget would disproportionately impact smaller medical device companies, as these firms make up the majority of the US medical device industry. Get the full story here at the Emergo Group’s blog. The opinions expressed in […]

  • David Timmersman appointed president of Vitaldyne

    David Timmersman has been appointed president of Vitaldyne, a contract manufacturer specializing in the manufacture, assembly and packaging of medical devices and components. Timmersman assumes the position held by Mariellyn Kuske, a founder of the company who will be retiring once the transition to new leadership is complete. Mariellyn Kuske, along with her husband Mike, began Vitaldyne […]

  • 6 visual impairment breakthroughs you need to know

    About 285 million people have some form of visual impairment in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Of that number, 39 million are considered blind, and 246 million have low vision. Three-fifths of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured. Uncorrected refractive errors are one of the main causes of vision impairment in […]

  • How to make ultrasound zap tumors in a moving organ

    Researchers led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing think they’ve overcome the challenges standing in the way of using ultrasound to kill cancer tumors in organs that move with breathing. Until now, health practitioners have mostly limited ultrasound to treating prostate cancer, bone metastases and uterine myoma, according to the Fraunhofer Institute (Bremen, Germany). Organs […]

  • Do patient advocacy organizations have a conflict of interest?

    At least 83% of U.S. patient advocacy organizations receive financial support from medical device, drug and biotechnology companies, according to new research out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. The Penn research team – which included Matthew McCoy, Harald Schmidt and Ezekiel Emanuel – examined websites and annual reports for 104 organizations […]

  • Here’s what C-suite leaders plan to focus on under the Trump administration

    President Donald Trump, his administration and a Republican Congress have big plans for changing healthcare. For now, the future of the American healthcare system is up in the air. But healthcare leaders across the country have already started to make initial plans.

    Charlotte, North Carolina-based Premier Inc. decided to find out what is top of mind for C-suite leaders now that the new administration has taken the helm. The company conducted an online survey of 63 healthcare C-suite leaders, including CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, COOs, CIOs and CTIOs, between January 3 and February 6.

    The results found leaders zeroed in on five primary areas on which they will focus under the Trump administration, according to a press release from Premier. In priority order, they are:

    Advertisement

    1. Controlling costs and focusing on drug spending

    Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said they will increase their focus on ways of managing the cost of care. Another 61 percent said they plan to concentrate on managing rising drug costs and pharmaceutical spending, which aligns with President Trump’s claims that he wants to decrease drug prices.

    2. Heading from meaningful use to meaningful insight

    Rather than a sole focus on putting data in EHR systems, respondents indicated they plan to focus on analytic capabilities. Half of the respondents said they will work to increase interoperability, and 53 percent plan to improve data integration and invest in analytics.

    3. Consumer engagement

    Even with the transition to a new administration, healthcare leaders are increasingly looking for ways to both engage and satisfy consumers. As such, 56 percent of respondents said they want to use telehealth to improve patients’ access to physicians. Another 45 percent plan to build on their organization’s patient engagement initiatives.

    4. Movement toward population health efforts

    Respondents indicated their interest in the value-based care initiatives lauded by the Obama administration. Of the leaders surveyed, 40 percent said they plan to expand the healthcare team to include nurse practitioners, care coordinators and others. Another 45 percent indicated they will increase their use of post-acute care services.

    5. Ongoing focus on clinical quality

    Though it’s becoming a standard for healthcare leaders, respondents indicated they will continue to concentrate on quality reporting. While 46 percent of respondents said their organization will increase the use of quality reporting systems such as the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, 2 percent of respondents said they plan to decrease their investment in such systems.

    The results of the survey hint at a future that will revolve around lowered costs and improved quality, according to Premier COO Mike Alkire. “These findings highlight how providers are taking the long view — not just focusing on the here and now, but ultimately on what will be most beneficial to patients and sustain the viability of our nation’s hospitals,” he said in an email to MedCity.

    Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images