END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

Q: Who replaces Price if he's out? (UPDATE: THE PRICE IS NOW WRIGHT)

HE'S OUT. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM.

So this morning I read this story at Politico by Dan Diamond and Rachana Pardhan:

Price’s private-jet travels included visits with colleagues, lunch with son

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended.

The St. Simons Island trip was one of two taxpayer-funded flights on private jets in which Price traveled to places where he owns property, and paired official visits with meetings with longtime colleagues and family members. On June 6, HHS chartered a jet to fly Price to Nashville, Tennessee, where he owns a condominium and where his son resides. Price toured a medicine dispensary and spoke to a local health summit organized by a longtime friend. He also had lunch with his son, an HHS official confirmed.

...and the immediate fallout as summarized below...

Politico: Tom Price's private jet travels included lunch with his son, trips to places where he owns property. https://t.co/nIEwW1xnYK

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 26, 2017

In June, Price took a Learjet 55 from DC to Nashville—a $17,760 roundtrip flight.

Commercial airline tix would have cost $102-$333/person. https://t.co/hyJKJlENHr

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 26, 2017

Price had been seen in WH as weathering this till now, but admin officials tell me it's not clear how much longer https://t.co/1qMZvcOikg

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) September 27, 2017

In response to this, I idly mused on Twitter that it's time to start learning more about the Deputy Secretary of the HHS Department...

Guess it’s time to start learning about Deputy HHS Sec. Colleen Barros? https://t.co/eKQ3oQ9bZ2 https://t.co/JwBffwfTeS

— ☪️ Charles Gaba ✡️ (@charles_gaba) September 27, 2017

...who, according to Wikipedia, is a woman by the name of Colleen Barros who's apparently worked at the HHS Dept. in various capacities for many years, mostly at the National Institute of Health. Fair enough.

However, when I tried looking up more information about her over at the official HHS.gov website, I couldn't find anything beyond her NIH bio which was last updated a few years ago.

The mystery was solved shortly thereafter by "OKOkayWhatsNext" on Twitter, who discovered that Ms. Barros apparently retired back in March. I like to think she couldn't stomach working for Donald Trump and Tom Price for more than 40 days, although it looks like she had been at HHS for over 40 years and was ready for retirement anyway.

However...given that she doesn't appear to have been replaced as of yet, who the heck would take over as acting HHS Secretary in the event that Tom Price is kicked to the curb?

Well, OKOKayWhatsNext also did a nice job hunting that down as well: It's some guy named Eric D. Hargan, who's been nominated for the position, but not actually confirmed yet:

Description: Eric D. Hargan, of Illinois, to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice William V. Corr, resigned.

Nominees: One nomination, beginning with Eric D. Hargan and ending with Eric D. Hargan

Position: To be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services

Organization: Department of Health and Human Services

Latest Action: 06/14/2017 - Placed on Senate Executive Calendar. Calendar No. 112. Subject to nominee's commitment to respond to requests to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of the Senate.

Date Received from President: 04/06/2017

Committee: Senate Finance

"Subject to nominee's commitment to respond to request to appear and testify" makes it sound like he's blowing off the hearing or something, although I suppose it could be just a matter of working him into the schedule or whatever. On the other hand, there's been "no action" since mid June, which seems like an awfully long time to be playing phone tag.

On the other other hand, apparently he did have his Senate confirmation hearings on June 7th after all, so perhaps there was supposed to be a follow-up hearing or something which never happened? Weird. Regardless, as of this writing, Mr. Hargan does not appear to have been confirmed.

So...assuming Price is told to go pound sand and this guy isn't in place, who would be the acting HHS Secretary then? I presume it's one of these folks, but I have no idea what the pecking order is.

Just the sort of stability and reassurance the health insurance industry needs just 34 days before Open Enrollment starts.

MAJOR UPDATE Friday 9/29 4:53pm:

Welp. Sure enough, Price is toast, just 55 hours after I originally posted this entry:

Tom Price Resigns As Health And Human Services Secretary
His departure comes as a result of revelations about his frequent and costly use of taxpayer-funded private and military plane travel.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned his post just a week into a growing scandal over his frequent use of chartered and military flights that cost American taxpayers more than $1 million.

The White House announced the news in a statement Friday afternoon:

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.

Politico first reported that Price had frequently chartered private jets to travel around the country, breaking a long-standing precedent from his predecessors who often flew commercial. The outlet identified dozens of private flights, costing more than $400,000, since May. Just days later, Politico also reported that Price had flown to Africa, Europe and Asia this spring on military aircraft at a cost of more than $500,000.

OK, it's a guy named Don. J. Wright. Here's Mr. Wright's resume via LinkedIn (h/t Millard Filmore for the link). It looks like he's a career government guy...he's worked there in various administrative capacities since 2007 (i.e., throughout the entire Obama administration), and was at OSHA for several years before that. That doesn't prove anything about his ability to run the entire HHS Dept., of course (especially in the midst of the utter mess things must be there at the moment), but at the very least it should mean that he takes his duties as a public servant seriously. We'll see. God knows he's gonna have his work cut out for him over the next 3 months, anyway...

  • Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Director Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • 2012 – Present
  • Acting Director: Office of Research Integrity
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Service
  • Mar 2014 – Dec 2015
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary for Healthcare Quality
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • 2009 – 2012
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health
  • Company NameU.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dates Employed2007 – 2009
  • Acting Assistant Secretary for Health
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dec 2007 – Mar 2008
  • Director: Office of Occupational Medicine, Office of Safety and Health Administration
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • 2003 – 2007

UPDATE: Oh Dear Lord. This would just be too perfect:

Twitterati floating idea of Romney as replacement.

— Barbara J. Martin MD (@Pathophilia) September 29, 2017

This would be Inception-level irony right here.