Another one bites the dust.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price turned in his resignation Friday following a firestorm of criticism over the $400,000 in travel costs he accrued through habitual use of private planes. A former House representative from Georgia, Price is one of at least 14 White House officials to have stepped down during Trump’s embattled first year in office.
The 62-year-old Republican is likely to be remembered for his role in the stalled Trumpcare bill, which has repeatedly stalled in Congress.
Referred to as the “evil mastermind” behind the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Price has been an enthusiastic supporter of the president’s failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as research showed that premiums would increase as much as 74 percent, Price defended the numerous plans put forward by Republicans. He told Meet the Press in March that “nobody will be worse off financially” should Obamacare be struck down.
Congress doesn’t appear to agree. The most recent iteration of that effort, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, failed to pass the Senate earlier this week.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that the Graham-Cassidy legislation, if passed, would have had a nearly identical impact to previous repeal bills. The proposal would leave 32 million Americans uninsured, many of whom would not be able to otherwise afford coverage. Populations disproportionately affected include the low-income communities, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and individuals living with HIV.
The Williams Institute estimated that the Republican proposal, which slash funding for Medicaid dramatically, would leave around a million queer and transgender people uninsured. Many of these people gained access to care for the first time under the ACA.
A Republican health plan is likely to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for trans individuals enacted last year. Section 1557, which barred bias on the basis of gender identity in all federally funded health centers, has been under assault from the new administration, who has sought to roll it back. That rule was sent back to Health and Human Services for reconsideration in May.
Advocates say this rollback would contribute to a society where LGBTQ people can be turned away from hospitals and doctors simply because of who they are. Twenty-seven percent of transgender people and 20 percent of HIV-positive individuals claim to have been discriminated against or refused service in health settings.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has subsequently referred to the GOP effort to repeal the ACA as a “death sentence” for LGBTQ people.
Prior to his appointment, LGBTQ rights groups warned that Price could pose a danger to the community. As a member of the House of Representatives, he repeatedly voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes laws. Price referred to the Obama administration’s support of trans student rights as “absurd.”
The White House said in a statement that Don J. Wright, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary, would serve as the interim Secretary of HHS following Price’s department.