Elizabeth Warren

Questioning During the Confirmation Hearing of Tom Price - Jan. 18, 2017

Elizabeth Warren
January 18, 2017— Washington, D.C.
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WARREN: Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Congressman Price, more than a 100 million Americans now receive their health care through Medicare and Medicaid programs. These are seniors, people with disabilities, middle-class families who have parents in nursing homes, countless numbers of children and they all benefit from these programs.

So I want to understand the changes to Medicare and Medicaid that you have already proposed. The budget that you recently authored as Chair of the House Budget Committee would have cut spending on Medicare by $449 billion over the next decade, is that right?

PRICE: I don’t have the numbers right in front of me—

WARREN: I have the numbers

PRICE: Well then I assume you’re correct.

WARREN: Alright, so you said you’d cut it by 400—Medicare, cut Medicare by $449 billion. Your FY 17 budget proposal also would have cut Medicaid funding that goes to the state governments by more than $1 trillion, is that correct?

PRICE: I think, Senator, that metrics that we use for the success of these programs—

WARREN: I’m just asking, it’s an easy yes or no. Did you propose to cut $1 trillion from Medicaid?

PRICE: What we believe is appropriate is—

WARREN: Do you want me to read you the number out of this?

PRICE: No, I’m sure you’re correct. What we believe is appropriate is to make certain that the individuals receiving the care are actually receiving care.

WARREN: I understand why you think you’re right to cut it. I’m just asking the question: Did you propose to cut more than $1 trillion out of Medicaid over the next ten years?

PRICE: You have the numbers before you.

WARREN: Is that a yes?

PRICE: You have the numbers before you.

WARREN: I’ll take it is yes. So, as I’m sure you’re aware, during his campaign for president, President-elect Trump was very clear about his views on Medicare and Medicaid. As Senator Sanders has quoted extensively, President-elect Trump said, “I am not going to cut Medicare and Medicaid.” Now, when President-elect Trump said “I am not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” do you believe he was telling the truth?

PRICE: I believe so, yes.

WARREN: Yeah, okay. Given your record of proposing massive cuts to these programs along with several other members of this committee, I sent the President-elect a letter in December, asking him to clarify his position. And he hasn’t responded yet, so I was hoping you could clear this up: Can you guarantee to this commit that you will safeguard President-elect Trump’s promise and while you are HHS Secretary you will not use your administrative authority to carry out a single dollar of cuts to Medicare or Medicaid eligibility or benefits?

PRICE: But what the question presumes is that that money is metric. In my belief, from a scientific standpoint, if patients aren’t receiving care—even though we’re providing the resources—then it doesn’t work for patients.

WARREN: I’m sorry to interrupt but we’re very limited on time. This metric is money. And the quote from the President-elect of the United States was not a long discourse on this. He said he would not cut dollars from this program. So that’s the question that I am asking you. Can you assure this committee that you will not cut one dollar from either Medicare or Medicaid should you be confirmed to this position?

PRICE: Senator, I believe that the metric ought to be the care that the patients are receiving.

WARREN: I’ll take that as a no?

PRICE: It’s, it’s – that’s the wrong metric. We ought to be putting forth resources—

WARREN: I’m not asking you whether or not you think you have a better metric. I’m asking you a question about dollars. Yes or no?

PRICE: What we ought to do is put forward the resources to start—

WARREN: Thank you, Congressman. You know, these are really simple questions. And frankly, the millions of Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid today are not going to be very reassured by your notion that you have some metric other than the dollars that they need to provide these services. You know, you might want to print out President-elect Trump’s statement “I am not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid” and post that above your desk in your new office, because Americans will be watching to see if you follow through on that promise.