As Mr. Price prepares for two confirmation hearings — the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday — his past efforts on behalf of health-related companies, which have donated generously to his campaigns, are under scrutiny. So, too, is Mr. Price’s history of trading in biomedical, pharmaceutical and health insurance stocks while serving on the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. Democrats have called for investigations into whether he traded stock based on information he gleaned as a congressman.
Last year, Mr. Price bought stock in a company that makes orthopedic implants shortly before introducing legislation that could have protected the company, Zimmer Biomet, from financial losses due to a new federal regulation. The regulation sought to rein in spending on joint replacements for Medicare patients; Mr. Price’s legislation would have delayed its implementation. After he introduced it, Zimmer’s political action committee contributed to his re-election campaign; the string of events was first reported Monday by CNN.
Phillip J. Blando, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, said Mr. Price “had no knowledge or input into the purchase” of the Zimmer stock, which he said was made by a broker. Asked why Mr. Price had not directed his broker to avoid buying health-related stocks while he wrote and voted on health legislation, Mr. Blando said, “We know that other members of Congress, including Democrats, have holdings in health care stocks and vote on health-related legislation.”
In a letter to an ethics lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services last week Mr. Price said he would divest himself of holdings in 43 health-related and other stocks to avoid conflicts of interest. Noting that the Office of Government Ethics had completed an “exhaustive review” of Mr. Price’s financial holdings, Mr. Blando said last week that Mr. Price “takes his obligation to uphold the public trust very seriously.”
Although not among the billionaires whom Mr. Trump has tapped for his cabinet, Mr. Price has profited from medicine, both as a doctor and as an active investor in health care-related companies including Aetna, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Zimmer Biomet, which makes artificial joints and other medical devices. He has an estimated net worth of $13.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with assets that include real estate. He has also been an effective fund-raiser: Even in his first run for office in 1996, his war chest of $173,000, much of which came from doctors and medical companies, led his poorly financed Democratic opponent to call him “Dr. Dollar.”
A brisk, hyper-focused workaholic who relishes the granular details of legislative proposals and process, Mr. Price expressed concern last year about Mr. Trump’s grasp of the issues. Taking questions from a student group at Emory University, he said he had voted for Marco Rubio in the Republican primary and called Mr. Trump an “empty policy vessel” who was “dangerous for politics and the economy,” according to the student newspaper.