The medical establishment is praising the appointment of Tom Price, MD, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. That enthusiasm is not shared by women's health advocates and some Democrats in Congress.
President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Rep. Tom Price, (R-GA), an orthopedic surgeon and avowed opponent of Obamacare, was greeted with high praise by the major professional lobbies in the healthcare sector.
"As healthcare continues to evolve and as care becomes more patient centered, Dr. Price's experience both as a surgeon, along with practicing at Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital, makes him uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Health and Human Services," said American Hospital Association CEO Rick Pollack.
"He has spent most of his career working in hospitals as an orthopedic surgeon, and his experience as a provider of care will serve patients well in this new role. We have worked with him as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and as Chairman of the House Budget Committee. His clinical knowledge along with his congressional experience make him an impressively qualified candidate for HHS secretary."
Patrice A. Harris, MD, chair of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, urged the Senate to "promptly consider and confirm Dr. Price for this important role."
"The American Medical Association strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS," Harris said.
"Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs."
Marilyn Tavenner, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said that Price has for years "been committed to ensuring that patients and consumers are well-served. He will bring a balanced and thoughtful perspective to his role as Secretary of HHS. We look forward to working with him to promote competition, increase choice, and lower costs for every consumer."
Likewise, Tavenner praised Seema Verma, who was picked to serve as Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a position Tavenner once held.
"We look forward to working with Seema Verma to strengthen our nation's healthcare system and empower Americans to improve their health and financial well-being," Tavenner said, "particularly those who depend on the valuable support and services provided through Medicare and Medicaid."
John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, noted Price would be the first physician to serve as secretary of HHS since 1989.
"With his background as a former practicing physician and as a legislator on both state and national levels, he will provide a much needed medical perspective to U.S. health policy at a time of health reform and global outbreaks of new health threats," Meigs said.
Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, cited Price's academic career as a former assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
"Rep. Price understands firsthand the work and challenges faced by our nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals, and has long been a proponent of academic medicine," Kirch said.
"We are confident that Rep. Price will bring a thoughtful, measured approach to tackling the wide range of issues affecting the nation's health—from funding for biomedical research to training the next generation of physicians to transforming the nation's healthcare system in order to provide all Americans with the care they need when they need it."
America's Essential Hospitals
Bruce Siegel, MD, president and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals said the selection of Price as HHS secretary demonstrates that President-elect Trump "has made experience a priority in his choices" of both Price and Verma.
"Rep. Tom Price has an extensive clinical, administrative, and academic background in healthcare and long experience in the legislative process," Siegel said. "Seema Verma, MPH, offers a deep understanding of healthcare delivery and policymaking and can contribute an important state-level perspective on Medicaid, insurance, and public health. We are especially proud of her accomplishments as a graduate of the association's Fellows Program.
"Particularly noteworthy about both nominees is their experience caring for low-income and other vulnerable people, shaped by their work at hospitals with a safety net role—essential hospitals," Siegel said.
Gerald R. Williams, Jr., MD, president of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, was delighted that a AAOS member was picked to lead HHS.
"Dr. Price has decades of leadership on health care policy issues and firsthand experience caring for patients for nearly 20 years," Williams said.
"He has worked closely with AAOS on issues including repeal of the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula, oversight of mandatory bundled payment models, increasing flexibility within electronic health record programs, defending important in-office ancillary services, and protecting the patient-physician relationship. He has been an indispensable voice within the House Republican Doctors Caucus, making significant contributions to health policy reform and furthering the interests of patients. And he has been one of the most important champions in improving the care of patients in the specialty, rural, and small or solo practice settings."
CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell said Price "has been at the forefront of advancing important reforms to the nation's health IT policy landscape."
"He was a leader in pushing for greater flexibility in the Meaningful Use program, including the 90-day reporting period," Branzell said. "The shorter reporting period is a more realistic timeframe and will help hospitals stay focused on optimizing electronic health record systems for improved patient care. Dr. Price was also instrumental in 2015 in extending the timeline for providers to apply for hardship exemptions under the Meaningful Use program."
Concerns Over Access
Not everyone was pleased with Price's nomination. NARAL Pro-Choice America Senior Vice President Sasha Bruce said that with the nomination "Trump is sending a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care."
"Tom Price is someone who has made clear throughout his career that he does not trust women to make our own decisions about our healthcare. Instead, he wants to punish us for the choices we make for our bodies, our futures, and our families," Bruce said.
"In Congress, Tom Price cosponsored some of the most offensive anti-choice legislation on record, legislation that could ban abortion for almost any reason. Not only has Tom Price tried to outlaw abortion nationwide, including in cases of rape, incest, and health of the woman, he has worked to put an outright ban on the most common forms of contraception. As chair of the Budget Committee, he has been on the front lines of the efforts to dismantle the lifesaving Affordable Care Act, as well as the dangerous attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. For the seven in 10 Americans who support legal access to abortion, this is an incredibly alarming pick."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, who will lead the Senate minority next year, aired his disdain for Price's nomination on Twitter. "Nominating Rep Price @HHSGov Sec like asking a fox to guard the hen house; risks seniors, women, people w/ disabilities' healthcare access," Schumer wrote.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.