Why we support Dr. Price to lead HHS

Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA
American Medical Association
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The AMA supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price based on decades of interactions with him as a member of the AMA House of Delegates, Georgia state senator and as a member of the House of Representatives since 2005.  Over these years, there have been important policy issues on which we agreed (medical liability reform) and others on which we disagreed (passage of the Affordable Care Act). Two things that have been consistent are his understanding of the many challenges facing patients and physicians today, and his willingness to listen directly to concerns expressed by the AMA and other physician organizations.

An orthopaedic surgeon for nearly twenty years, Dr. Price would be the first physician to serve as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since President George H.W. Bush appointed Louis W. Sullivan, MD, in 1989, and only the third doctor to serve as secretary of the department in its 63-year history. That physician background will provide important perspective within the president’s cabinet. Too often, health policy makers and regulators give short shrift to the real-world impact their plans and decisions can have on how patient care is delivered.

Even prior to his 2004 election to Congress, Dr. Price brought his physician experience to bear on health policy as a member of the Georgia Senate, where he served on the Health and Human Services Committee and supported efforts to improve child safety and expand patient choice. The AMA recognized his state legislative work with the Dr. Nathan Davis Award. More recently, Dr. Price has taken part as a speaker in AMA-organized policy events, such as a 2015 tele-town hall that prompted conversation on how to chart a better course on electronic health records.

An open door

A mainstay through the years has been Dr. Price’s commitment to seek out and hear the concerns expressed by the AMA and other physician organizations. Even so, our support for Dr. Price to lead HHS should not be taken as an endorsement of every policy position he has advocated.

The conversation surrounding President-elect Trump’s HHS choice caused me to reflect on a similar episode in the history of U.S. health care. When Ronald Reagan named pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop, MD, as surgeon general, the move prompted a flurry of objections based on Dr. Koop’s fervent opposition to abortion.

Despite that early resistance, Dr. Koop went on to become a powerful and constructive voice during the AIDS epidemic, helping to advance education, prevention and treatment responses that reduced stigma, deaths and suffering. He also released eight reports on tobacco use’s baleful health consequences and promoted the goal of a smoke-free society. Dr. Koop’s one-time opponents later cited him as a role model for how the U.S. surgeon general can help the nation face serious health care challenges.

The AMA will actively engage Dr. Price, other leaders in the incoming Trump administration and Congress in discussions on the health system’s future direction. We remain devoted to improving health insurance coverage so that patients receive timely, high-quality care, preventive services and other necessary medical treatments. And for us, a core principle with regard to any proposed health system reform is that it should not cause anyone who has health insurance coverage now to lose it.

We look forward to a continuing conversation with Dr. Price as we work together on the health care priorities where we share common ground.

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I agree with the outrage expressed by many of the members above. I was dismayed to read the December 1 endorsement of Dr. Tom Price to lead HHS. It seems rash and to be a rush to a favorable judgement. I have lived and worked in Georgia as a physician executive. I have had the opportunity to hear Dr. Price speak on more than one occasion, including twice in small group encounters, one with Q&A. I find him arrogant, even to other physicians who disagree respectfully with his views. His points of view do not represent the future of American medicine. They are representative of why we need to change. It will be a great step back to have him leading HHS. I find it a risk to those who can least afford it – the elderly and the poor. He is not a leader I choose. He is not good for my children, grandchildren, and friends. I considered cancelling my AMA membership, but decided I need to be more active to keep grave errors like this from happening in future. Shame on the AMA leadership for doing this without input.
You have another thing coming if you think Dr. Price's replacement of the ACA will cover the same amount of patients that it covers now. The AMA has let down not only physicians, but all of our patients. If you've looked at any of his replacement plan, then you would see that poor patient's will have less coverage and it will be harder for patient's to get coverage. He was an orthopedic surgeon and spent his career fixing joints. He has no real knowledge of how so many patients struggle to get medical and drug coverage just to get basic healthcare. Countless hospital admission could be prevented if preventative care and maintenance medications were covered and more easily accessible. He wants to make things even harder for our poor patient. In addition, he has shown hate towards our LGBT patients. Tell me LGBT health will get better under his leadership. Tell me women will have safer abortions under his leadership. Unfortunately, abortions happen whether we want them to or not. But our mission as physician is to provide a safe abortion procedure, not to limit care and access to women in need. I am truly disgusted that the AMA would openly endorse such a poor candidate to lead HHS. I am ashamed to call him a fellow physician.
As my fellow physicians have noted above, I find it utterly disgraceful that the AMA should turn a blind eye to the dangerous and divisive policies of Dr. Price. And as a primary care physician on the front lines, I can tell you that his policies are woefully out of touch with the reality of American medicine. The AMA leadership should prepare itself for a wave of crushing dissent from its members. Physicians are revoking their AMA memberships in droves and turning to other organizations that prioritize social justice and actual evidence in making healthcare policy decisions. For in supporting Dr. Price and his egregious policies so hastily you have betrayed the the core values of our profession. What the AMA has done is rash, spineless, and not in the best interest of our patients. Dr. Harris, I implore you to make right this terrible misstep by the AMA. There is a time for diplomacy; but there is also a time to stand one's ground for what is right, good, just... and at minimum, evidence-based. It is now time for the latter.
This position by the AMA is a disgrace to our profession. I've always had mixed thoughts about the organization, but now I have a clear position; you are the enemy and you are not our advocates as a medical organization. My physician friends and colleagues, many of whom are of similar mind, will no longer consider you a legitimate representative of our interests, and will either rescind membership or never rejoin your organization. Dr. Price's positions on denying health care to millions of human beings now covered under Obamacare, on Planned Parenthood that provides crucial women's health care to people who otherwise can't afford it, against reasonable gun control measures that could save lives, against LGBT civil rights that affect their access to care and mental health, and much more, are all the antithesis of why we went into this profession as physicians, to help people and save lives and provide care. I guess your organization is also the antithesis now as well. Good riddance. We will fight you every step of the way.
I am very encouraged by Dr. Price's nomination and heartened that the AMA (for what it's worth) has endorsed him. What a crazy idea: putting a physician at the helm of HHS. The fact that he is openly opposed to Obamacare is also encouraging since this legislation was forced on Americans and was based on lies. If the AMA will continue to fall on the right side for a change, they may start to get more doctors to join. The pitiful 15% of US physicians that belong to the AMA is reflective of the fact that most doctors do not feel the AMA is in their corner. I am a little ashamed for all of the previous doctors who have posted on here. They seem preoccupied by abortion, unnatural sexual practices, gun control, and other things that the American people have largely rejected in the recent election. Instead of being negative, why not feel encouraged that things may actually improve for doctors in America?
As a medical student who is pursuing a medical career with hopes of treating everyone using the best science, respect for patient autonomy, and advocating for increased access to care, I am not encouraged and will reconsider my membership.
This endorsement is indeed shameful and is directly opposite my views and interests. A colleague who emphatically opposes evidence based medicine and is against access to medical care absolutely does NOT have my endorsement. Placing the leadership of HHS in the hands of someone who is actively opposed to the primary mission of HHS is, well, just crazy. The AMA endorsement is akin to the IPCC endorsing Myron Ebell as head of the EPA. I will not be renewing my membership unless the AMA very publicly rescinds this endorsement before confirmation.
I don't know how the AMA can support this person. He doesn't support the affordable care act. He also supports slashing Medicare and Medicaid. He is against the right of women to choose. He also supports stripping Planned Parenthood of funding. Shouldn't the AMA not only support it's physician members but also the patients we care for. Isn't health care a right for all, not just for the rich who can afford it? As an AMA member, I am embarassed the AMA supports this person
Dr Harris, This does not reflect well on you personally. I invite you to respond to my email to you and other BOT members. Much more light could be shed here. But I refrain.
Appreciate your comments. I wish they had been part of the initial statement.


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