Paying a Price

For 28 days, the U.S. has been without a Secretary of Health and Human Services. Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s confirmed appointment, resigned from the position Sept. 29, 2017 after serving for 231 days. His brief tenure makes him the “shortest serving Secretary of Health and Human Services in history.”

The scandal which led to Price’s resignation was broadly a case of misspent taxpayer funds. This was first reported by online news outlet Politico. Over the span of his 231 days, Politico reported that Secretary Price had “taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense.” The same article indicates that these flights were within the continental U.S., and that the expense of commercial flights to these destinations were markedly cheaper. A trip the Secretary took from Washington D.C. to Nashville, for instance, cost $17,760, whereas commercial fares for an identical trip hovered around $202.

After Politico’s initial inquiries reporters unearthed additional flights Secretary Price took throughout the summer on military aircraft. The expense of these flights exceeded $500,000. Collectively, Secretary Price’s 231 days of service amounted to an excess of $1 million in travel costs.

As the story continued to unfold in national media, President Trump expressed discontent with his Secretary, indicating his personal displeasure and assuring his constituents that he would examine the situation closely. Whatever examination occurred, it culminated in Secretary Price’s resignation and a vow to refund American taxpayers the cost of his seat on all privately chartered flights:  $51,887.31.

Rumors are swirling as to who might succeed Secretary Price at the Department of Health and Human Services, and delving into speculative coverage offers little certainty. Politico, in its continued coverage, offers nine potential candidates. Another online outlet, Axios, narrows that list to three: Seema Verma, responsible for overseeing Medicaid, Medicare, and components of the ACA; former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; and Scott Gottlieb, commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration.

President Trump has made no official announcements, so no prospective nominee’s appointment is certain.  

Photo Courtesy of CNN.

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