Top House Democrat looking into HHS secretary's use of private jets
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (Screen Capture)

A high-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Wednesday he is looking into a report that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price used private jets to travel on government business.

Politico reported on Tuesday that Price took private jets on five occasions for official business, which cost tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial flights. Politico documented one chartered trip from Washington to Philadelphia that cost about $25,000.

"I would remind Secretary Price that taxpayer funds are not meant to be used as a jet-setting slush fund," Representative Frank Pallone Jr., the top-ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

"My colleagues and I will be looking into this further and we will be asking the HHS Office of the Inspector General for a full accounting of Secretary Price's travel," he said.

In August, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife, actress Louise Linton, traveled on a government plane to Kentucky where they viewed the Aug. 21 solar eclipse with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others. That trip prompted a federal watchdog this month to review the circumstances surrounding the travel.

Senate Republicans are working to revive an effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, Democratic former President Barack Obama's top signature domestic policy achievement. The bill, called the Graham-Cassidy proposal, is backed by the Trump administration.

The proposal would redistribute money to the states through block grants and would end Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled. It would cut federal funding to states by $215 billion through 2026, according to an analysis from Avalere Health, a healthcare consultancy whose clients include hospitals and insurers.

(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb)