Nurses Call on Senate to Reject Tom Price as HHS Secretary
Policies Would ‘Substantially Erode Our Nation’s Health and Security’
National Nurses United today called on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as well as the full Senate, to reject the nomination of Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In a letter to HELP from NNU co-presidents Deborah Burger, RN and Jean Ross, RN, NNU cited Price’s proposals for health coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, his call for cutting Medicaid, his support for the effort by House Speaker Paul Ryan to privatize Medicare, and his repeated votes in the House that would severely erode health care protections for millions of Americans.
“If confirmed, it is clear that Rep. Price will pursue policies that substantially erode our nation’s health and security – eliminating health coverage, reducing access, shifting more costs to working people and their families, and throwing our most sick and vulnerable fellow Americans at the mercy of the healthcare industry,” Burger and Ross warned.
Nurses every day “see first hand the health and social impacts of healthcare policy and are often the last line of defense for patients and their families.
“Even today, four years after enactment of the Affordable Care Act, we have seen a drop in U.S. life expectancy rates for the first time in decades, millions of people who self-ration prescription medications or other critical medical treatment due to the high out-of-pocket costs, and continuing disparities in our health care system based on race, gender, age, socio-economic status, or where you live.
“While our organization repeatedly voiced concerns that the ACA did not go far enough, repealing the law, especially the expansion of Medicaid which extended health care coverage to millions of low and moderate income adults, and limits on some of the most chronicled abuses in our present insurance based system, would only exacerbate a healthcare crisis many Americans continue to experience,” they wrote.
NNU cited several specific reasons why Price should not be confirmed, including positions on:
- Replacing the ACA which would endanger the health of tens of millions of Americans” and “serve to weaken, if not demolish, the nation’s health care safety net.”
- Converting Medicaid into a block grant program for state governments, “a thin veneer for a desire by some states to sharply cut spending on indigent health care or drastically reduce patient services.”
- Proposing the ban on insurers denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions be replaced with requiring continuous coverage for the previous 18 months, “a massive loophole that ignores what happens to people who lose existing coverage when they are unemployed or who are forced to change insurance coverage due to rapidly escalating premium costs or being dropped by their insurer.”
- Support for Speaker Ryan’s proposal to privatize Medicare “that would price countless numbers of our nation’s elderly out of access to care.”
- A voting record that includes votes to oppose allowing Medicare to negotiate bulk discount prices on inflated prescription drug costs, giving mental health services full equity with physical expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare co-pay, expanding research on embryonic stem cell research, and repeated votes to restrict reproductive rights for women.
“Instead of rolling back the protections we currently have, NNU has long advocated that we strengthen, improve, and expand our public Medicare system to cover all Americans,” Burger and Ross wrote. “That is the type of system in place throughout the developed world that is the best, most cost effective way to guarantee healthcare for all, reduce overall costs, and sharply cut administrative waste that is endemic to private insurance.
“The Senate is under no obligation to confirm a nominee whose policy views are so outside the mainstream and opposed by the vast majority of Americans, including the President-elect who campaigned on a pledge to not cut Medicare or Social Security.
“As nurses know from the patients we care for every day, without health, there is no security. We cannot risk the very real consequences of Rep. Price’s reckless disregard for the health of our patients and our nation,” Burger and Ross concluded.