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KEVIN FOLEY: Price lives large as Sarah and Aidan flee Georgia

Ever since his confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary, former Georgia 6th District Representative Tom Price has been flying high aboard private jets paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

As noted in Politico last week, Price treated himself to at least 24 private charter flights, including five in one week, at a cost of at least $300,000 to taxpayers. The two previous HHS secretaries under President Obama always flew commercial in the continental U.S.

One private flight for Price, from Washington to Philadelphia — 139 miles — cost $25,000. Price could have taken the high-speed Acela train for $240 roundtrip, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What makes Price’s extravagance especially galling is that it was Price himself who condemned private jet travel by government officials as an obscene waste of tax dollars when he was in the House. In 2009, after House Democrats tried to buy eight private jets, Price told CNBC, “This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now.”

When you’re part of Team Trump, things change.

“In June, Price spoke at a physician’s association conference in San Diego, where he vowed to wring out wasteful spending in the government’s health care programs,” Politico reported. “Getting ‘value’ for spending ‘is incredibly important,’ he said. Price took a private plane to get to the meeting, which was one stop on a five-state sprint of charter travel that cost $50,420.”

“This is Secretary Price getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people,” explained a HHS spokeswoman.

“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,” reported Politico. “Price was planning on spending two days at the conference and one evening at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel (where) the lowest room rate … was $499 per night …’ 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.’”

“Real American people,” huh?

Price’s office went on to defend the secretary’s frequent luxury air travel by suggesting there were no convenient commercial air travel alternatives available. Politico proved that was hokum, reporting that Price took a June 6 private jet to Nashville to give an afternoon speech at a cost of $17,760.

“There are four regular nonstop flights that leave Washington-area airports between 6:59 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. (which would have gotten Price to Nashville in plenty of time),” said Politico. “Sample round-trip fares for those flights were as low as $202.”

When Price jetted to Colorado for a shindig called the Aspen Ideas Festival, he arrived a day before he was scheduled to speak, landing in the glitzy resort town aboard a Lear 60 just like all the other beautiful people at a cost of $7,100, according to Politico.

“This shows a complete disregard for the expense of the taxpayers,” remarked Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Republican Price’s self-indulgence hasn’t escaped the notice of House Democrats, who demanded HHS Inspector General, Daniel R. Levinson produce the secretary’s travel records and justifications for his private jet travel.

“The review focuses on whether the travel complied with (the General Services Administration’s) Federal Travel Regulations, but may encompass other issues related to the travel,” said Tesia D. Williams, the inspector general’s spokeswoman.

The GSA’s online air travel page directs government employees to “its competitive, federally-negotiated airline rates for over 7,500 domestic and international cities.”

“If the reports are accurate, this would be a stunning and hypocritical breach of trust given that the Trump administration at the same time is trying to take health care away from millions of Americans and is proposing to slash funding at HHS, negatively affecting critical programs to provide early-childhood education, fund Medicare for seniors and conduct medical research and development,” Rep. Elijah Cumming, D-Maryland, told Levinson.

His jet-setting lifestyle outed, Secretary Price admitted to Fox News, “the optics in some of this don’t look good.”

While Price lives large, self-described “medical refugee” Sarah Allen and her fragile 3-year-old son Aidan are moving to Colorado where they will finally get the state-funded assistance they need.

“(Sarah) had to deal with a state system which declined doctor’s orders and refused to provide adequate in-home nursing care for (Aidan),” reported the MDJ.

“Georgia is the deadbeat dad of the U.S,” area resident Mark Crupi reportedly wrote Gov. Nathan Deal after reading Sarah’s story. “It’s embarrassing to think we won’t take care of our own children … Every state legislator should be ashamed for allowing this to happen.”

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