Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has called for an investigation of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
Price is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be the next head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Huffington Post reports Schumer took the action in response to allegations in a report by CNN that, in March 2016, Price bought shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer, “days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company.”
After the legislation had been introduced, the company’s political action committee donated to the congressman’s reelection campaign, CNN says.
The Huffington Post says members of Congress are permitted to invest in the stock market, as long as they report those investments, by the STOCK Act — which also prevents them from making investment decisions based on insider information they might learn because of their position in Congress.
But less than a week after Price, an orthopedic surgeon, bought the stock, according to the CNN report, the Georgia congressman introduced the HIP Act, which would have delayed until 2018 a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.
The HIP Act would have derailed Medicare’s switch to bundled payments for joint replacements, which has proved to save money for the agency by paying a set (bundled) fee to hospitals for all care related to hip or knee replacement surgery; the bundled payment covers the period from the surgery date until 90 days later.
Under the traditional system, hospitals would collect payments individually for the multiple separate components of care and rehabilitation. The difference in payments, according to a Kaiser Health News report, could save Medicare millions — possibly billions — of dollars each year and do so without affecting patient care — if it’s allowed to continue.
Price not only owned stock in the company — which, according to the Trump transition team, was done by a broker with Price having no knowledge of it — but, according to a Wall Street Journal report in December, traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health care companies while pursuing legislation that could impact them.
After that report appeared, Schumer called for the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation into potential violations of the STOCK Act by Price. In addition, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen also filed a formal request with OCE to investigate Price’s stock purchases, as well as asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate his investments.
This time, in renewing his call for an investigation, Schumer not only issued a statement, but took to Twitter over the matter, saying, among other things, “The [p]resident-elect claims he wants to drain the swamp, but Congressman Price has spent his career filling it up.”
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