- HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday in the wake of news reports he spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money on travel this year, including several private flights for him and his staff.
- Since Politico broke the story this week, Price has apologized. He offered Thursday to repay the government for costs of his seats, but that amounts to only a fraction of the total. Before being named to the top spot at HHS, Price frequently criticized wasteful spending by the government.
- Dr. Don Wright, the deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, will become acting HHS secretary.
The private plane travel controversy quickly picked up speed this week as Politico continued to find more proof of jets being chartered for sometimes small distances. President Donald Trump was said to be furious with Price and did not publicly defend him.
The news will only bring more uncertainty for the healthcare industry, which has already been struggling with unknowns regarding potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Price didn’t have time to leave much of a footprint at HHS, but he was beginning to act on long-expressed desires for deregulation.
HHS scaled back mandatory bundled payment programs and declared it was exploring a “new direction” for the CMS innovation center that it said would focus more on giving providers freedom and flexibility.
The agency also sent a request for information asking healthcare professionals to recommend ways to reduce reporting and regulatory burdens. This focus on deregulation will likely remain alive and well at least at the CMS, where administrator Seema Verma holds similar views to Price.
Wright joined HHS since 2007. He has previously served as deputy assistant secretary for healthcare quality and as director of the U.S Department of Labor Office of Occupational Medicine. Wright was in private practice for 15 years for his government positions. He is board certified in family medicine and preventive medicine.