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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How could you have endorsed Dr. Price so quickly and thoughtlessly? The ACA has been a great benefit to my patients, hospital and community. There have been no recommendation for "replacement" that comes close to meeting our patients' needs. By endorsing him without discussion, the AMA may have diminished its ability to have an impact on the direction of access to healthcare in the US.
Other physicians who oppose this endorsement have written a letter, which you can read, and to which you may add your signature (along with 2000+ others) here: https://medium.com/@ClinicianAction/the-ama-does-not-speak-for-us-d697511267d5#.ttxq1r994) Emily
Dr. Price supports a number of positions which will be of great help to physicians in dealing with malpractice claims and insurance companies. We can only hope that his efforts to repeal and replace the ACA will be thwarted by all of the varied interests, including 20 million people and most of the health care industry, that will oppose that action. For those who voted for Mr. Trump, be careful what you wish for!
This is embarrassing and shameful. His work is a huge step backwards for our patients and the medical community. His actions speak louder than his words, considering his track record and positions: - Defund Children’s Health Insurance Program - Supports Medicare privatization - Opposes Medicare power to negotiate drug prices - Wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act - Wants to defund Medicaid via block grants (estimated 18-20 million will lose coverage) - He's a member of the fringe conservative medical group AAPS (anti-science, bigoted market zealots) - Zero rating from Planned Parenthood - Marriage equality a "sad day for marriage" and "judicial destruction of checks and balances" - Against transgender rights, called it "absurd" to have a guideline to schools - Voted NO on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act - Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation - Voted NO on a bill to fight hate crimes based on sexual orientation - Voted YES for constitutional amendment defining marriage as "one man and one woman" - Supported Atlanta Police Chief Cochran after he was suspended for remarks referring to homosexuality as a sexual perversion and equating it to bestiality - Voted YES on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers. - Ban gun registration & trigger lock law in Washington DC. - Voted YES on opening Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. - Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. - Voted NO on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. - Voted NO on protecting free-roaming horses and burros. - Voted NO on providing $70 million for Section 8 Housing vouchers.
Agree 100%. This is the most irresponsible endorsement by the AMA since its opposition to Medicare.
Completely agree. This is a dark moment for AMA that coincides with the beginning of long dark period for our country. Shame on the AMA for taking such a self serving position at the cost of destroying their commitment to promoting the health and supporting efforts to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans.
I agree as well. This is shameful. Ok, so he's a doctor. But he does not seem to care that his numerous positions will only decrease the health of the population as a whole. AMA is a pure guild organization that cannot seem to see past the MD, or lack of MD, degree. There are so many qualities besides one's education/profession that are required to provide good leadership in the public health sector. This is why I am not, never have been, and never will become a member.
Thank you so much for your comments - they are 100% spot on. I am horrified by the AMA endorsement of this man for all the the reasons you have eloquently outlined. I cannot express how outraged I felt when I learned that the AMA had endorsed him and I will NOT be renewing my membership.
I completely agree with Dr Harrington, AMA's endorsement of Dr Price is appalling. Her enumeration of his many positions that are antithetic to the interests of our patients and patient care underscore the potential devastation of our healthcare system by the heartless and dishonest conservatives who are assuming control of our government.
For all the reasons that Samantha Harrington outlined above, it is embarrassing that the AMA endorsed him! His voting track record and proposed policies would be a disaster. And why was this endorsement made so rapidly without any input from it's members?


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Nov 13, 2018
Cost concerns too often prevent patients from pursing evidence-based care their doctors recommend. The AMA details tools, insurance plan designs and advocacy initiatives that can help.