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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As a disappointed AMA member, I would like to raise two major points: 1. It's unconscionable that AMA would endorse a nominee who wants to privatize Medicare and replace medicare's full insurance with a voucher system? Doesn't AMA realize that the for-profit insurance private sector would reduce benefits and increase costs for seniors just as it has for everyone else? 2. It is further disappointing that AMA expressed an endorsement so rapidly without waiting to learn of Mr. Price's responses to questions at the Senate confirmation hearings. Waiting for these responses and reacting accordingly would have increased AMA's leverage and credibility.
As a resident and a strong believer in access to high quality healthcare for all, I am utterly disappointed that an organization I thought represented me and what I believe in endorsed a person like Tom Price. The AMA has lost my support, and the support of many residents I work and communicate with. Where I work, I regularly see the long-term effects of lack of access to healthcare, the health effects of racism, sexism and bigotry, the trauma that breeds from inequality and a low socioeconomic status. Dr. Price's voting history implies he is blind to and opposed to changing the core issues that drive up health care costs and lead to diseases such as obesity, trauma and lack of access to primary care. AMA, you have disappointed and distanced an innumerable number of residents who see the truth and these issues first-hand.
While I applaud a Physician in this position, I do not understand the GOP opposition to Romneycare turned into Obamacare a/k/a ACA. I wish that GOP physicians would explain why they want to repeal every letter, word, sentence and page. It certainly was not a 'Job Killer' as it was forecasted by the GOP. Over 20,000,000 + people got insurance which would have been more if the opposition from GOP governors (with few exceptions) would have acted responsibly. The AMA must continue to stand for ACA improvements and not repeal with no reasonable alternative put forward that would not only save the newly insured but add to the number of insured until we have total coverage.
AMA's rapid endorsement of Dr Price for HHS secretary is appalling. His support of dismantling the Affordable Care Act and privatizing Medicare are only 2 examples of his disregard for patients and patient care and the provision of quality healthcare to everyone in the US. Others have commented on his multiple votes in opposition to many essential healthcare policies, for example the Childrens Health Insurance Program. This is an embarrassment to the AMA and all members who actually care about patients and the health of our fellow citizens.
Since when does HHS have significant impact on medical liability reform? If you want to endorse Price for a position because of his help on that issue, the position should be relevant. I want AMA to disclose exactly how much money Dr. Price has donated to it and the foundation. I want a list of any potential conflicts of interest which played a role in this endorsement. If there is a physician in America who thinks a multimillionaire orthopedist will be helpful in improving public health, primary care, murdering fee for service, and ensuring that we finally start to develop strategies to have nimble responses to health crises like zika, I would like to hear from that doctor about exactly why. I'd take one of my diabetes health educators over Dr. Price and you can choose which one. At least they know the real problems with health care in this country.
I'm glad to see this outpouring of dismay over the Tom Price appointment. I'm a former AMA delegate and I've know about Dr. Price's views for a long time. I'm sorry that Dr. Harris is in a position where she has to support his nomination. I hope the AMA doesn't loose membership over this. We need the doctors to be unified to push back on heinous medical policy that we suspect will be coming based on Mr. Trump's rhetoric.
Poor choice to support. I will re-look at why I need to continue my 35+ year membership.
Very disappointing. Dr. Tom Price and GOP placed a priority on obstructing President Obama and promoting roadblocks to the success of the ACA, offering no real solutions to cost and access. I will not renew my 20 year AMA membership on December 31st, as this AMA no longer represents me or my patients. Will divert that support locally to our community clinics that will be at the forefront of the trying to meet the health needs of our neighbors and their families.
It's an outrage that the AMA would allow itself to be co-opted so quickly by this extremist president-elect. It's not just that Trump and Price will kick millions of our patients off of their health insurance. A Trump administration is a fundamental threat to American institutions. Doctors and anyone else who values American institutions and principles of liberty and inclusion should be doing their utmost to prevent Trump from taking office. My opinion is that, given the preferences of the electors who will vote in the Electoral College on December 19th, there is only one feasible way to prevent Trump from taking office. That is if all 232 of Hillary's electors cast a vote for Paul Ryan and somehow convince at least 38 of Trump's electors to vote for Ryan too. I made a petition to this effect (link below), which explains why asking Hillary's electors and 38 of Trump's electors is the only feasible path that could prevent Trump from taking office. https://www.change.org/p/hillary-clinton-how-to-prevent-donald-trump-from-ascending-to-the-presidency-deadb053-202b-411e-b9b7-6a4838c578ea?recruiter=630430913&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
Typo: At the end, it should say "which explains why asking Hillary's electors and 38 of Trump's electors *to vote for Ryan* is the only feasible path that could prevent Trump from taking office"


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