Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, fourth from right, with leaders of the Pawnee Nation on September 19, 2017, in Pawnee, Oklahoma. Photo: Pawnee Nation

Secretary of Health and Human Services took private plane to tribal meetings

Secretary Tom Price, the new leader of the Department of Health and Human Services, is under fire for his use of private planes, including one he took to visit tribes in Oklahoma last week.

Price, a physician and former Congressman from Georgia, visited the Pawnee Nation last Tuesday. To get to the tribe's health care facilities and ceremonial roundhouse in Pawnee, he took a private charter jet, POLITICO reported.

The next day, Price traveled to the Cherokee Nation. Although he was driven from Pawnee to Tahlequah, a trip that only takes about 2 hours, his staff explored the use of a private plane for that short leg of his itinerary, POLITICO reported.

“There was a push from political [staff] at HHS to fly him and not drive him to these small communities," an unnamed person who was said to have knowledge of Price's travel plans told POLITICO.

While in Tahlequah, Price addressed the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee for its first-ever meeting in Indian Country. He acknowledged the "substandard care" at the Indian Health Service but did not outright commit to seeking more funding for the beleaguered agency even as the cost of his flights grew over the last few months.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addresses a meeting of the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on September 21, 2017. Photo: Cherokee Nation

"So how are we going to make sure every American Indian and Alaska Native patient receives the very best care possible?" Price told tribal leaders, according to his speech "In part, by forging better, more accountable and productive relationships between your governments and ours."

According to POLITICO, Price's trips to Oklahoma and to other locations last week cost taxpayers $56,500. When other trips since May are added, the cost rises to more than $400,000, POLITICO reported. He took at least 26 private flights between May and last week, the organization said.

"We’re looking into it," President Donald Trump told journalists on Sunday when asked about Price's travel, POLITICO reported.

During an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, Price said he won't take private planes while his trips are being reviewed internally.

Read More on the Story:
Price traveled by private plane at least 24 times (POLITICO September 21, 2017)
Tom Price to halt taxpayer-funded travel on private jets (POLITICO September 23, 2017)
om Price Says He’ll Stop Use of Private Jets Until After Review (The New York Times September 23, 2017)
Trump: 'We're looking into' Price's use of private planes (POLITICO September 24, 2017)

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