Trump pick for Health Secretary pushed bill to help firm

London, Jan 17 (IANS) US President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing a bill that would have directly benefited the company, a report said.

Georgia Republican congressman Tom Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of knee and hip implants, the CNN report revealed late Monday.

Less than a week after the transaction, Price introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.

Zimmer Biomet was one of two companies that would have been hit the hardest by the new CMS regulation that directly impacts the payments for such procedures, according to press reports and congressional sources.

After Price offered his bill to provide Zimmer Biomet and other companies relief from the CMS regulation, the company’s political action committee donated to the congressman’s re-election campaign, the report said.

“It clearly has the appearance of using your influence as a congressman to your financial benefit,” Larry Noble of Campaign Legal Centre told CNN.

“If he believed in the bill, he should not have purchased the stock.”

Phil Blando, a Price spokesman, did not initially respond directly to questions about the nominee’s purchase of Zimmer Biomet shares, instead pointing to a broader review of Price’s holdings completed by the US Office of Government Ethics last week.

“Price takes his obligation to uphold the public trust very seriously,” Blando said. “The Office of Government Ethics has completed an exhaustive review of Price’s financial holdings and just as Price was compliant with congressional disclosure rules, he will comply fully with the recommendations put forward by the ethics office.”