President Donald Trump had clearly been unhappy with the negative press coverage over Price's use of charter flights for routine travel. The HHS Secretary said Thursday he would pay for his seats, or $52,000 of the $400,000 cost of the 26 charter flights taken since May.
HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, resigned today after criticism grew this week over his use of chartered flights, which were first reported by POLITICO.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted,” the White House said in a statement.
POLITICO first reported on a group of 5 flights between September 13 and September 15, which were at odds with past practice of HHS secretaries using commercial flights except when traveling to remote locations. Initially, Price attributed the decision to an ambitious agenda. Later, there were reports he had missed an industry event and switched to charter flights after that.
But the story escalated through Thursday, after Price, a former Georgia congressman and orthopedic surgeon, was found to have taken at least 26 charter flights that cost more than $400,000. Price apparently did not help himself on Thursday when he offered to repay Treasury $52,000, which he said covered the cost of his personal seats.
Earlier in the week, Trump said he was “disappointed” in Price because the charter flights didn’t look right “cosmetically.”
“This is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things, on new trade deals that will be—you’ll be seeing the results very soon," Trump said.
On Friday afternoon, Trump had told reporters he would make the decision “sometime tonight” as he left the White House for his golf club in New Jersey.
Price was very active during his stint as HHS secretary, although he caused plenty of controversy. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have been furious over his decision to slash funding to promote open enrollment on HealthCare.gov, along with a recent directive to scale back HHS staff support for enrollment programs in the states.
A longtime critic of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, Price has worked with CMS Administrator Seema Verma to propose a rethinking of that agency’s mission. And he has canceled or called for scaling back bundled payment efforts in cardiac care and hip and knee replacements; observers have noted the irony of someone with Price’s background curtailing reforms in this area.