While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has been helping Donald Trump take health care away from tens of millions of Americans, he has been spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private air travel.
According to a new report from Politico, Price has spent $300,000 on private flights since May – all while working tirelessly to help his boss pass disastrous legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
More from the report:
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents.
The frequency of the trips underscores how private travel has become the norm — rather than the exception — for the Georgia Republican during his tenure atop the federal health agency, which began in February. The cost of the trips identified by POLITICO exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries.
Price’s use of private jets represents a sharp departure from his two immediate predecessors, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially in the continental United States. HHS officials have said Price uses private jets only when commercial travel is not feasible.
Despite the claim that Price only flies private when there isn’t a commercial option available, Politico also pointed out that even sources inside the administration admit that the HHS secretary prefers the private, more-expensive travel.
“Since being confirmed in early February, Price has developed a reputation inside the agency for flying on private charters rather than taking other means of transportation, people inside and outside the Trump administration said,” the news organization reported.
And it’s not as if Price doesn’t have any other options. The report also noted that the HHS secretary has chosen to charter private jets when cheaper, commercial options were available.
“Many of the flights are between large cities with frequent, low-cost airline traffic, such as a trip from Washington to Nashville that the secretary took on June 6 to make a morning event at a medication distributor and an afternoon speech,” Politico reported. “There are four regular nonstop flights that leave Washington-area airports between 6:59 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. and arrive in Nashville by 9:46 a.m. CT. Sample round-trip fares for those flights were as low as $202, when booked in advance on Orbitz.com. Price’s charter, according to HHS’ contract with Classic Air Charter, cost $17,760.”
Meanwhile, as Price is enjoying his luxurious taxpayer-funded private flights, millions of Americans are worried that they could lose their health coverage or be priced out of insurance.
They have reason to worry, too.
The latest version of the Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare – the Graham-Cassidy bill – would leave 32 million people without health insurance, price Americans with pre-existing conditions out of coverage, increase premiums overall, and utterly decimate Medicaid, risking coverage for the 65 million Americans currently depending on the program.
It would also result in more than 2.5 million job losses.
So instead of using taxpayer dollars to enrich himself, perhaps Tom Price – and his boss – should use the funds to improve the lives of the people they are supposed to be serving.
They should start by scrapping the devastating and, ultimately, deadly Graham-Cassidy legislation.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.