Skip to main content

Physicians Split on Price HHS Nomination

News  |  By John Commins  
   December 06, 2016

A Merritt Hawkins poll suggests physicians believe Tom Price, MD, President-elect Trump's pick to lead HHS, will improve physician autonomy and reduce federal intrusions, but also hurt patient access to care.

President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Rep. Tom Price, MD, (R-GA), as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services received lavish and universal praise from physicians' associations that curry favor with the federal government.

Support, however, is not as widespread among practicing physicians for Price, an orthopedic surgeon, according to a small sampling released this week by Merritt Hawkins.

An online survey of 1,094 physicians by the Dallas-based physician recruiting firm found the attitude of physicians is more ambiguous and reflective of the general population, with 46% of physicians generally positive about Price, 42% generally negative, and 12% neutral.

"It's a plurality. It's not a majority. The split down the middle reflects the mood of the country right now," says Kurt Mosley, vice president of strategic alliances at Merritt Hawkins.

"We had a divisive election, so no matter who gets nominated, you are going to have people who are positive about it and an equal amount who are negative. We are more divided than ever and the survey reflects that."

AHA Sends Second Appeal to Trump

The survey also asked physicians if they thought Price would improve medical practice conditions for physicians if his nomination for HHS secretary is confirmed. The plurality of respondents (46%) believe Price will improve practice conditions, 34% said he will worsen them, and 20% are neutral.

"Physicians have told us that the least satisfying part of their work is the regulatory paperwork burdens and erosion of autonomy," Mosley says. "When the American Medical Association endorsed his nomination they talked about his preference for market-based solutions and the need to reduce excessive regulatory burdens."

Mosley said that Price has also been a huge proponent of redoing MACRA, which he feels is onerous and complicated and confusing. Last May, Price came out with the Empowering Patients First Act, which calls for repealing of the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with "patient-centered solutions."

A Colleague
Price's biggest attribute among physicians is that he is a colleague. "He was a doctor for more than 20 years before he entered Congress. He's been in the trenches. He's billed Medicare. He knows the issues," Mosley says.

"Of the last eight HHS secretaries, only three have been physicians, and that's if Price is approved. He's also the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and a lot of physicians said he knows the inner workings of Congress and seems like he can get stuff through."

When asked about care access, however, the returns are less favorable. A plurality (47%) said Price will detract from patients' access to care if his nomination is confirmed, 42% said he will improve access to care, and 11% remain neutral.

"The big concern is figuring out what to do with the 20 million people who became insured under Obamacare," Mosley says. "This repeal and replace, which Price has been a huge proponent of, has a lot of people scared that he is going to come in and whack the thing off at the knees, and then what do we do with those 20 million people? There are also concerns that he is going to reduce CHIP funding." 

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.