U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, MD, resigned late Friday following a week of White House anger over Price’s use of travel funds, including allegedly spending $1 million in taxpayer money for private jets instead of commercial airlines in just the past four months.
Price expressed regret that the travel scandal has “created a distraction” for the nation and the Trump Administration from progress on “working to reform a broken health care system, empower patients, reduce regulatory burdens, ensure global health security, and tackle clinical priorities such as the opioids epidemic, serious mental illness and childhood obesity,” according to Price’s resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained and published online by Politico.
The resignation means more turnover and instability at HHS, which has spent most of 2017 with a bullseye over it as GOP leaders battle over Medicare and Medicaid reform, reimbursement reform and the fate of programs and initiatives created by the Affordable Care Act. Price’s replacement has not yet been named, but possible candidates appear to include Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. If Verma were to succeeed her former boss, it would mean yet another administrator change for CMS.
Price’s departure is the latest shakeup at HHS, which also announced last week it would overhaul the CMS Innovation Center (CMMI), the pilot house for many Medicare payment models.