Dec 9, 2016 – By JULIE ROVNER
Prospective Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, currently the chairman of the House Budget Committee, brings a distinctive to-do list to the agency. And, if confirmed by the Senate, he will have tremendous independent power to get things done.
While he will report to the president, heads of major agencies like HHS — with a budget of more than $1 trillion for the current fiscal year — can interpret laws in different ways than their predecessors, and rewrite regulations and guidance, which is how many important policies are actually carried out.
“Virtually everything people do every day is impacted by the way the Department of Health and Human Services is run,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. HHS responsibilities include food and drug safety, biomedical research, disease prevention and control, as well as oversight over everything from medical laboratories to nursing homes.
Price, a Georgia physician who opposes the Affordable Care Act, abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, among other things, could have a rapid impact without even a presidential order or an act of Congress.
Some advocates are excited by that possibility. “With Dr. Price taking the helm of American health policy, doctors and patients alike have sound reasons to hope for a welcome and long-overdue change,” said Robert Moffit, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, in a statement.
Others are less enthusiastic. Asked about what policies Price might enact, Topher Spiro of the liberal Center for American Progress said: “I don’t know if I want to brainstorm bad ideas for him to do.”