HHS' Office of the Inspector General is investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price's reported use of private planes for work-related travel in recent months, according to a spokesperson for the office.
Several Democratic lawmakers had called for the investigation following a Politico article published last week that reported Price on five occasions took private jets for official business, which charter flight operators estimated would cost at least $60,000 combined. Politico has since identified at least 24 times in the past four months when Price flew on private jets for official business at a cost of more than $300,000 to U.S. taxpayers. Politico reported that more recent trips on private planes have pushed that cost up to more than $400,000 since May.
A Price spokesperson said the HHS secretary began using private jets after a commercial flight delay forced him to miss an official HHS event. According to Politico, that flight was delayed because of a storm in the Washington, D.C., area that also affected private charter flights.
Tesia Williams, a spokesperson for HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson, said the office will seek records of Price's travel and review the reasons provided to justify the use of private jets.
She said, "The review focuses on whether the travel complied with federal travel regulations but may encompass other issues related to the travel." She added, "We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue. I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible."
Price, White House response
Price in an interview with Fox News on Saturday said HHS would "cooperate fully" with the investigation and he would stop using private jets for work-related travel. He said, "We've heard the criticism. We've heard the concerns. We take that very seriously and have taken it to heart."
President Trump on Sunday said his administration also is looking at Price's travel history. "As far as Secretary Price is concerned … We're looking into it," Trump said (Pradhan/Diamond, Politico, 9/21; Griffiths, Politico, 9/24; Diamond, Politico, 9/23; Davis, Washington Post, 9/22).
Here's your cheat sheet for understanding health care's legal landscape
With MACRA, HIPAA, the ACA, and countless others, the health care landscape has become an alphabet soup of legislation. To help you keep up, we've created a series of cheat sheets for some of the most important—and complicated—legal landmarks.
Check them out now for everything you need to know about the Affordable Care Act, antitrust laws, fraud and abuse prevention measures, HIPAA, MACRA, and the two-midnight rule.