Sen. Chuck Grassley voted early this morning to confirm Rep. Tom Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Grassley is a senior member and former chairman of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid.  As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley works toward fair competition among drug makers to benefit consumers.  He made the following comment on the confirmation.

“Congress is the people’s branch of government.  I hope that having an immediate former member of Congress at the agency will bring responsiveness to the public and Congress on our oversight inquiries.  The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are responsible for making sure beneficiaries and taxpayers are well-served.  People deserve well-run programs, and there is a substantial amount of taxpayer money at stake, so government programs have to get the most bang for the buck.  Those in charge have to perform oversight to make sure that happens.  

“The lack of accountability from the Obama Administration on drug misclassification concerns is a prime example of what I want to see fixed in the new administration.  The Obama Administration’s Justice Department and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services refused to voluntarily testify at a hearing on the misclassification of EpiPen under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program.  The misclassification likely cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  The Obama Administration wrote a lackluster and very disappointing response to my inquiries and, in particular, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services failed to provide any documentation to support its statements that it took action to fix the misclassification.  It shouldn’t take multiple inquiries and headlines for the agencies in charge to make sure participants in a federal program are fulfilling their obligations under that program.  I look forward to working with Secretary Price and the incoming CMS administrator on strong oversight of federal programs for beneficiary and taxpayer benefit.  

“I also look forward to working with them on policies that make sense for Iowans.  Obamacare needs to be replaced with policies that promote affordability and consumer choice.  Critical access hospitals are a lifeline in Iowa and many other parts of the country.  Doctors in rural states like Iowa are getting reimbursed less than their counterparts in other parts of the country, despite regularly offering better quality of care.  These are just a few of the issues that I’ll keep at the forefront.”