U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R–Ga.), a University alum, visited campus Thursday evening to address the Young Americans for Freedom on topics including healthcare reform and Donald Trump.
A recurring theme throughout Price’s discussion to a crowd of around 40 in the Michigan Union was his goal to limit federal regulation and involvement in business and other realms.
Price, also the chairman of the House Budget Committee, pointed to the issues of ballooning college tuition and what he says are entitlement costs from programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He argued that the delegation of more authority to individual states would significantly lower costs by allowing states and individuals to undertake more efficient solutions.
He emphasized that college tuition increases could be reduced by allowing students to take low-interest loans directly from private banks, stating that direct federal subsidies to higher education are responsible for the rapid inflation of college costs.
“Do you know why the (federal student loan interest rate) is 6.8 percent?” he said. “Because the government says it’s got to be 6.8 percent regardless of what the market says … you could go out and get a loan from a bank for 3- to 4-percent interest if we allowed the banks to do what they’re supposed to do.”
In response to audience questions, Price didn’t specify a preference among the Republican primary field for the 2016 presidential election, expressing admiration for a variety of candidates.
“I think this is probably a Rubio-Kasich-Bush race,” he said, referring to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
He also expressed surprise at the success of the outsider candidates Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, noting concern with the leadership style of Donald Trump.
“What concerns me about Trump is not necessarily his policy positions, but we know what it feels like to have a president that oversteps their bounds on regulations and rules,” Price said, referring to President Barack Obama. “And when I hear Trump saying things like ‘I’ll just do XYZ’ without seemingly any regard for the legislative branch, it gives me some thought.”
Price also heavily criticized the Affordable Care Act, drawing from his experience as a practicing physician and long-time opponent to government-mandated healthcare coverage.
Though conceding that the extension of healthcare coverage to a larger portion of the population is a positive development, he said the bill undermines the direct doctor-patient relationship.
“(The ACA) works for the government and insurance companies, but not for patients,” he said.
Price argued that the ideal healthcare system should be accessible, affordable and of high quality, while also possessing the capacity for responsiveness, innovation and patient choice.
“(The ACA) violates the principles that everyone holds dear, whether you’re on the left side of the spectrum or the right side of the spectrum,” he said.
He also touched on a healthcare reform bill introduced by his Republican colleagues in the House in 2013, the Empowering Patients First Act, which sought to provide universal coverage without mandates as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
Price is also scheduled to speak at the Medical School tomorrow as part of a series of talks with alumni. In a viewpoint submitted to The Michigan Daily, a group of Medical School students cited several parts of Price’s record they said didn’t align with their values as future doctors, including his vote earlier this week to defund Planned Parenthood and votes against legislation to prevent LGBTQ discrimination, as well as the Violence Against Women Act.
Apart from politics, Thursday night’s discussion also had more lighthearted moments, such as Price reflecting fondly on his time at the University, where he enrolled as an undergraduate in 1972.
“One of the big activities that we had in ’73 and ’74 were the Watergate hearings, and we would gather in the East Quad common area with a television, huddled around watching the Watergate hearings and not attending class,” he said to laughter from the audience.
LSA sophomore Grant Strobl, YAF chair, said the group wanted to bring Price to campus because he is an alum who encompasses many of their views about size of government and business.
“At the University, it’s important to think critically and discuss the big issues,” he said. “And I think that having a group like ours that advances these beliefs is a mutual benefit in that we create that dialogue on campus that wouldn’t otherwise exist.”