Tom Price, the Georgia congressman tapped for the nation’s top health job, pressed Medicare officials on a funding change that led to a windfall for the small biotech company run by one of his top campaign contributors, according to a document released under an open records request.
Price is facing a Senate hearing Tuesday on his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services, a role that would put him at the helm of an agency overseeing billions in spending. His initial hearing revealed the depth of Democratic lawmakers’ concerns about Price’s investments in health care stocks.
The document shows for the first time the nature of the assistance Price provided for MiMedx, a firm in his district that would become a top campaign contributor, seeding his political funds with more than $40,000 in the years since Price directed the letter to Medicare officials.
The Medicare letter that Price and seven other lawmakers sent on Oct. 9, 2013, was related to a product called EpiFix, a small graft made of pulverized placenta that’s meant to aid wound healing. Price’s signature is first on the letter, which was signed by five other physicians who are members of Congress.
“Senate Democrats may find it significant that MiMedx only began contributing to Rep. Price after he intervened with Medicare on their behalf,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer in Washington. “He was the company’s congressman for 10 years before that, and no one at the company had contributed to him before the Medicare decision in the company’s favor.”
Before President Donald Trump’s swearing-in Friday, a spokesman for Trump’s transition acknowledged that Price has helped the company “in navigating regulatory waters, just as he would for any constituent.”
A request for comment Monday directed to the HHS press office was answered by a senior communications adviser at the agency who lauded Price as a physician who is “grateful for the opportunity to bring his expertise to enacting better policies.”
“Any suggestion that his motivations for public service have been anything other than to seek to improve the lives of the American people is simply wrong,” said Ryan Murphy, the HHS adviser, who was previously a spokesman for Price in his personal office and most recently communications director for the House Budget Committee, of which Price is chairman.
In an emailed response to questions, MiMedx chief executive Pete Petit said Monday