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Amid Rep. Tom Price’s second hearing on Capitol Hill for the role of health and human services secretary, the question of Price’s ethics during his tenure in Congress is sure to come up.
The latest questionable event to come to light?
Price introduced legislation that would have made a tax deduction on Puerto Rico manufacturing plants permanent. That bill came just three months after Price invested $1,000 to $15,000 in the pharma companies Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Lilly and the medical device maker Zimmer Biomet. All four companies have facilities in Puerto Rico, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The bill didn’t pass, but if it had, Price stood to benefit as a shareholder from the tax deductions applied to the companies’ facilities in Puerto Rico.
Last week, CNN reported that Price introduced the HIP Act less than a month after he purchased stock in Zimmer Biomet. If passed, the law would have delayed a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that would have “directly impacted the payments” for knee and hip implants, which Zimmer Biomet manufactures. The company’s political action committee has given two $1,000 checks to Price’s reelection committee, according to campaign finance filings.
As secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Price would oversee health agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pharmaceutical companies and medical devices.
Price has said that, with the exception of an Australian biotech called Innate Immunotherapeutics, he doesn’t manage the trades he makes. Other trades, he has said, were carried out by a broker without his knowledge. Price has also said that if he is confirmed as secretary, he will divest himself of the companies he would oversee.
Price’s investment in Innate has been a sticking point during his hearings. Politico reported Tuesday that a memo shows that Price purchased more than 400,000 shares of the company in August. Politico reports Price understated the value of those shares by more than $100,000 in his December 2016 disclosure form. Price said in the hearing Tuesday that the revision happened because Price misunderstood how he was supposed to answer (he opted to write down the value of the shares when he bought them, not their value as of December).
Democrats are calling for an investigation into Price’s investments, particularly over whether Price’s actions in Congress – such as introducing the Puerto Rico tax deduction bill – were connected to financial interests.