Trump's top health officials is facing ethics questions for investments in healthcare companies

Tom price hhs secretaryDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesRep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services

Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, is facing ethics questions over investments he made in medical companies.

Citing House records, CNN revealed on Monday that Price bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Zimmer Bodet, a leading provider of knee and hip implants.

A week later Price introduced a bill called the HIP Act, which would have pushed out the start date for a new regulation that would be damaging to Zimmer Bodet’s business.

Additionally, Zimmer Bodet’s political action committee made two separate donations of $1,000 to Price’s re-election campaign both before and after the introduction of the bill according to CNN’s report.

A spokesperson for Price told CNN after the report came out that the investment, campaign contribution, and the bill’s introduction had nothing to do with each other. CNN later cited an unnamed aide to the Congressman who who said the shares were bought without Price’s knowledge.

“Any effort to connect the introduction of bipartisan legislation by Dr Price to any campaign contribution is demonstrably false,” said Trump transition team spokesman Phil Blando in a statement on Monday.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for an ethics investigation into Price for a possible violation of the STOCK Act, which limits the investments and trading activities of members of Congress.

“This isn’t just a couple of questionable trades, but rather a pattern of Rep Price trading stock & using his office to benefit those [companies],” Schumer tweeted on Monday night along with the CNN report. “[The Office of Congressional Ethics] needs to conduct an immediate, thorough investigation into Rep. Price’s potential violations of the STOCK Act before [his nomination] moves forward.”

Price goes before the Senate for his confirmation hearing for the Health and Human Services post on Wednesday. Price’s office has said his investments followed ethical guidelines, and that he will divest all of his stock holdings within 90 days of a confirmation by the Senate.

Other trades

The news comes a few days after a report from Kaiser Health News and the Daily Beast reported that Price received a “sweetheart” stock deal from an Australian biotech firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Innate was clear in their business plan that they were seeking to influence key US officials in order to get approval for a new multiple sclerosis drug according to the report.

Price, along with Rep. Chris Collins and other US investors, received a 12% discount on the shares. These sorts of discounts, however, are typical in private placement investment such as the one Price took part in.

Price’s office also said that the Innate investment complied with all ethics guidelines for Congressional members.

The Wall Street Journal also looked at Price’s history of ownership in healthcare stocks in December. According to the Journal report, Price traded around $300,000 worth of healthcare related stocks over the past four years while introducing or co-sponsoring a large number of healthcare-related bills.

Price, the head of the House Budget Committee, also say on the Ways and Means Committee which is influential in crafting healthcare-related legislation.

Price, an orthopaedic surgeon, has been picked by Trump to help shepherd the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The president-elect said last week at his press conference that the replacement bill will be developed as soon as Price is confirmed by the Senate.

Price has long been critical of the ACA, while in Congress he introduced a bill — the Empowering Patients First Act — that would have repealed and replaced the law.

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