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 am amazed by how quickly and unabashedly you endorsed Dr. Price considering his consistent lack of support for programs that benefit vulnerable members of our population and his apparent hatred of women and the LGBTQ community. The majority of patients I see (the chronically mentally ill) received insurance through the Medicaid expansion with the ACA. With Dr. Price's proposals to abolish this and the ACA in general, they will lose their coverage, meaning they'll lose access to care, medications and any chance of recovery or stability. I can't see how supporting these positions are consistent with physician ethics including beneficence and justice. Dr. Price has been consistently anti-choice. Dr. Price has been consistently opposed to marriage equality. Dr. Price is a member of an odd fringe physician organization that casts doubts on the benefit of vaccines. These are controversial positions that aren't in line with an unabashed endorsement just days after he was proposed as a nominee. Interestingly, I've also noticed that perhaps the majority of trustees of the AMA have been political donors to Dr. Price even if they don't reside in Georgia. You can check out opensecrets.com for information. I'm not sure what to make of this information, but I'm wondering if there's some element of quid pro quo going on here. My mission going forward is to work with other physicians to remind the public that the AMA doesn't represent physicians in general. In fact, only approximately 15% of practicing physicians are members. I am also planning on avoiding using any of your products or paying for any of your services.
I am encouraged that the AMA has endorsed Dr. Price. I agree that national tort reform should be a prime interest of any physician representation organization, and I agree that too many non-physician "leaders" have made it more and more difficult to take care of patients. If this turns out to be a trend, I may reconsider the fact that I am not currently an AMA member.
The AMA statement of support for Dr Price's nomination is embarrassing - it is perhaps the most craven, self-serving document to emerge yet in this surreal transition period. The goal of Dr Price and others like him is to return health care back to being a privilege for the privileged. We who are already privileged in so many ways should know better.
From what I can see Dr. Price will follow Rep. Ryan's plans to further privatize Medicare and therefore make its administrative costs 3x more that current Traditional Medicare and subject all those over 65 to the forces of the market which avoid and exclude those who cannot pay. He's likely not to prevent the 20 million new Medicaid enrollees under the ACA from being dropped from coverage. There will be a resulting 20,000 deaths. The AMA is confirming why so few physicians belong to the AMA.
I do not know what process is involved for "you" to adopt a position for the AMA. You certainly do not speak for me! As several commenters have stated, Dr Price is an embarrassment to the medical field. His policies are counter to compassionate, meaningful patient care. We need universal health care coverage for every American. While I understand the revolt against big government, his anti-choice, anti-Medicare, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-ACA will only hurt women and the poor. I do not wish to be a part of any organization that endorses such a person and his policies. Just because he is a physician is not a reason to support his awful and hateful and backward policies. I hope you and whatever group put together this endorsement will reconsider and publicly acknowledge the reservations expressed by the majority of the commenters above. If your statement is not further "tempered", you will lose my membership. I am embarrassed and in total disagreement with your "support" of Dr. Price.
So well said - thank you! All of us who feel this way need to speak out against this endorsement.
How disappointing. If the past few weeks haven't taught us that we need to firmly stand our ground for what we believe in without compromising and to stop endorsing or accepting candidates simply because they aren't overtly despicable, what will? He is a terrible candidate. He won't do the right thing with the affordable care act, medicare, and women's reproductive rights. Stop hiding your head in the sand and do some real advocacy. I will not be renewing my AMA membership. You do not support me or the good of medicine in this country. You are completely disconnected from reality.
Your comments are 100% spot on. Thank you so much for highlighting his views and voting record. His extremely conservative views on every medical social issue that confronts this country will not change over time. These are views that are foundation principals of the in-coming administration - perhaps not deeply held by Donald Trump, but bedrock beliefs of Mike Pence. I cannot express the outrage I felt when I learned that the AMA had endorsed him and I will not be renewing my membership.
Please note my above comments were meant as a reply to samanthagharrington who posted on 12/2 and outlined Dr. Price's views and voting record on many important issues. The AMA's explanation for the endorsement is not good enough. I re-iterate my outrage at the AMA endorsing this man.
Goodbye AMA. You don't represent my core values any longer.


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