Sep 29, 2017

Tom Price resigns

Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price resigned today, following the failure of Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the revelations that he spent more than $1 million of taxpayers' money on luxury travel. The White House announced that Don Wright, currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, will become the acting HHS secretary.

What's next: Speculation about who would succeed Price permanently has focused on Seema Verma, who oversees Medicare, Medicaid and parts of the ACA. She's a close ally of Vice President Pence. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb are also seen as potential candidates.

The full White House statement:

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted. The President intends to designate Don J. Wright of Virginia to serve as Acting Secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. on September 29, 2017. Mr. Wright currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

From Price's resignation letter:

I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives. Success on these issues is more important than any one person. In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as the Secretary of Health and Human Services effective 11:59 PM on Friday, September 29, 2017.

How it happened:

  • Price's stock with President Trump fell significantly after Republicans' repeal-and-replace legislation died in the Senate. Price, a former six-term congressman, got the HHS job in part because of his ties to Capitol Hill, where Trump had hoped he would be the administration's point man on an ACA overhaul.
  • Price's travel on private jets, at taxpayers' expense, only made his job more tenuous. Politico identified 26 times Price chartered private flights for official business, for a total cost of more than $400,000. Those flight often covered short routes for which commercial flights were readily available, and Price sometimes tacked personal business onto his official travel.
  • Price's offer to pay back a small portion of those flights — "my seat," as he put it — didn't help extinguish the controversy, and was followed by revelations that he also used military jets for travel to Europe, bringing his total airfare tab to more than $1 million.
  • Trump is notoriously unhappy with bad press, and Price got a lot of it. He even opened the floodgates to a broader investigation into Trump Cabinet appointees' use of private airfare and other eyebrow-raising spending.

Lasting legacy: Price might not have gotten ACA repeal over the finish line, but even in his short tenure, he was able to undermine the law significantly. Under his leadership, HHS waged a PR campaign against the ACA; slashed funding to help promote enrollment; and directed regional department officials not to assist state-based enrollment efforts.

There's a good chance those efforts will successfully tamp down enrollment, and lower enrollment — especially among the healthier people who are less likely to investigate health insurance on their own — can legitimately weaken the ACA.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Global death toll surpasses 34,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 34,000 people and infected over 723,000 others globally, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 10,700 deaths early Monday.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30,

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 722,435 — Total deaths: 33,997 — Total recoveries: 151,991.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m.. ET: 142,502 — Total deaths: 2,506 — Total recoveries: 4,856.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Infections number tops 140,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now infected over 142,000 people in the U.S. — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 had killed over 2,400 people in the U.S. by Sunday night. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,000 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 2,600 Sunday evening.

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