HHS Tom Price Fleecing America

The inspector general’s office of the Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing HHS Secretary Tom Price’s taxpayer-funded travel on private jets.

“We take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue,” the OIG spokesperson said. “I can confirm that work is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.”

Secretary Health Tom Price had been taking private jets to conduct official business for months. Democrats on Wednesday formally requested an investigation. The review focuses on whether Price complied with Federal Travel Regulations but may address related issues, the spokesperson said. Those regulations expressly advise officials that “taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation.”

Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, including a flight on a private jet to Oklahoma this week, POLITICO reported on Thursday.

The frequency of the trips underscores how private travel has become the norm — rather than the exception — for the former Georgia Republican congressman during his time atop the federal health agency, which began in February. The cost of the trips identified by POLITICO exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries.

A spokesperson for Price said that the HHS secretary began using charter jets after a delay of a commercial flight forced him to miss an official HHS event, but the spokesperson could not offer any details about the specific flight delay or missed event.

Price’s use of private jets breaks with the practices of Obama administration HHS secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States and deliberately avoided taking charter jets. HHS staff last year scrapped a proposal for Burwell to take a multi-city tour linked to the kickoff of annual Obamacare enrollment because the trip would have required charter aircraft and cost about $60,000.

HHS has justified secretary Tom Price’s use of taxpayer-funded charter jets as necessary for official business, citing the risk of commercial flights being canceled or delayed because of a missed trip to Ritz-Carlton led to charter use.

HHS Secretary Tom Price has been taking private jets because an unreliable commercial flight once forced him to cancel an important meeting, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson says, part of his agenda to meet with average Americans outside of Washington.

But the flight in question — to a two-day industry conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California — didn’t get off the ground on a day when storms virtually shut down air traffic in the Washington region, preventing even private jets from getting out.

The details cast into doubt HHS’ justification for Price’s use of private jets as he faces criticism from congressional Democrats and a review of whether he complied with Federal Travel Regulations from his department’s inspector general.

Price’s planned trip was to the Health Evolution Summit in early April, a 550-person event mostly attended by health industry executives and investors, say three individuals with knowledge of Price’s schedule. HHS has justified Price’s subsequent use of taxpayer-funded charter jets as necessary for official business, particularly given the risk of commercial flights being canceled or delayed.

“This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” Charmaine Yoest, HHS spokeswoman, told The Washington Post. “Wasting four hours in an airport and having the secretary cancel his event is not a good use of taxpayer money.”

Yoest did not respond to POLITICO’s questions about why Price chose to make a two-day trip to a California industry conference and what the value was for taxpayers. She also declined to confirm that the scrapped April trip was the impetus for Price’s subsequent travel.

POLITICO has identified at least 24 subsequent charter jet flights, costing more than $300,000, taken by Price at taxpayer expense in the past four months.

Price was planning on spending two days at the conference and one evening at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. Coastal Living magazine says the hotel is “one of the finest luxury resorts in California,” known for its 150-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The lowest room rate on websites like Orbitz was $499 per night when booked in advance.

Two attendees of the conference said that while the meeting was packed with industry executives — nearly 60 percent of attendees were company CEOs, chairmen, founders or presidents, according to the meeting’s website — there are often similar events in cities like Washington, D.C., and New York City. Price was the only government official listed on the conference’s website as a scheduled speaker.

Price was slated to attend dinner on Thursday night, April 6, and give a talk the next morning. However, his commercial flight out of Washington on Thursday morning — which one source said was aboard United Airlines — was grounded for hours as a severe storm hit the region; more than 900 flights out of Reagan National Airport were canceled or delayed that day.

Price’s staff explored the use of a charter jet to get the secretary to the California event, but given the severe weather, private jets would have encountered similar delays or cancellations, two individuals with knowledge of the secretary’s travels said.

“There was no pressing business on the other end,” said one attendee with knowledge of Price’s schedule. “I was there and was shocked he was planning to come.

The story of HHS Secretary a former member of Congress who during confirmation was also accused of using his position on the powerful House Ways and Means to enrich himself at taxpayer expense buying and selling his influence with Wall Street stock portfolios. This person a former Doctor has no shame when its comes to stealing monies and enforcing his will on those less fortunate but is not above enrichment for his own well being and using the Federal government as his piggy bank.

E. Bishop III, The Money Connection.Com

“Follow the Money People”

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