Dr. Tom Price: A Good or Bad Choice for Secretary of US DHHS?

Dr. Tom Price: A Good or Bad Choice for Secretary of US DHHS?

Created on: Thursday, December 08, 2016
Author: Maine Medical Association

On November 29, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump named Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. There have been varied reactions to this news from the medical community, from the public, and from organized medicine. This blog post is an opportunity for MMA members and others to discuss this appointment.

Congressman Price is a 62-year-old orthopedic surgeon who served many years in the AMA House of Delegates. In that capacity, he served several years ago on an AMA committee which was staffed by Gordon Smith, the MMA Executive Vice President. “I know Tom Price,” said Gordon. “While he does not share the political ideology of many of us here in the northeast, he is a well-respected physician, is affable, approachable and honest.”

The chair of the AMA Board of Trustees, Patrice Harris, MD, issued a statement on behalf of the AMA, which stated in part:

"The American Medical Association strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS. 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.

We urge the Senate to promptly consider and confirm Dr. Price for this important role."

That view is not shared by all. In a November 30 editorial, the New York Times said recently:

"In picking Representative Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen as his secretary of health and human services a man intent on systematically weakening, if not demolishing, the nation’s health care safety net.

Mr. Price, a Republican from Georgia, is a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health reform law, and beyond that, supports plans to slash Medicare and Medicaid, which cover tens of millions of elderly, disabled and low-income Americans. He is against a woman’s right to choose and has backed legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding."

We at the Maine Medical Association are certain that our members have much to say about this appointment and hold a variety of opinions on the subject. Please enter a “Comment” below and have at it!

We look forward to a robust discussion.

(Photo credit: Politifact)


Visitor Comments

Peter K. Shaw (Tuesday, December 13, 2016)

Reject Dr. Price, Trump\\\'s HHS Choice

Dear Sir: I must express my concern regarding Donald Trump's proposal to nominate Senator Tom Price to head HHS. Dr. Price is a staunch foe of women's health needs and is the senate's chief henchman for undoing the ACA, potentially leaving 30 million Americans without health coverage. If there were ever a "fox in the chicken house" situation, this is it! The AMA has expressed support for this nomination, presumably because of Dr. Price's help in undoing the SGR debacle. I agreed with his work then, but dread what could result from his appointment to HHS Secretary. I entreat our organization to publicly and wholeheartedly oppose this unfortunate choice. Peter K. Shaw, MD, FACC

John Roediger (Monday, December 12, 2016)

Dr. Price

It is more than disappointing to see the NY Times continue with inflammatory hyperbole, after their publisher indicated that they would would try to "rededicate" themselves to "honesty." No one plans to strip support from patients precipitously. Changes proposed are anticipated to take about 2 years to effect.

Henry Skinner (Monday, December 12, 2016)


I am not reassured that Dr. Price is considered by those who have met him to be a nice guy and pleasant to work with. It's like saying Donald Trump is a dynamic speaker. Dr. Price has been very successful in medical practice (net worth estimated at $13million) and in politics. Like many physicians in highly remunerated specialties, he is quite conservative. There are demonstrated correlations between physician specialty, remuneration, and political leanings. He was for years a member of AAPS, an unapologetically reactionary physicians political group that is anti-abortion and anti-medicare. A perusal of their website suggested to me that this organization would like to see medicine practiced the way it was in the 1920's when those who could afford a doctor paid the doctor directly for their services, and many, if not most, people went without professional medical care. This organization for many years promoted the idea that serving patients with public insurance was "immoral." As you can see at he has a long history of publicly speaking and voting along very conservative lines, especially on divisive hot-button issues. I have copied and pasted here his stances on Healthcare issues 2006-2011. • Address lawsuit abuse; it doesn't raise taxes by a penny. (Jan 2010) • More Medical Savings Accounts; less medical malpractice. (Nov 2004) • Voted YES on the Ryan Budget: Medicare choice, tax & spending cuts. (Apr 2011) • Voted YES on repealing the \"Prevention and Public Health\" slush fund. (Apr 2011) • Voted NO on regulating tobacco as a drug. (Apr 2009) • Voted NO on expanding the Children\'s Health Insurance Program. (Jan 2009) • Voted YES on overriding veto on expansion of Medicare. (Jul 2008) • Voted NO on giving mental health full equity with physical health. (Mar 2008) • Voted NO on Veto override: Extend SCHIP to cover 6M more kids. (Jan 2008) • Voted NO on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility. (Oct 2007) • Voted NO on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D. (Jan 2007) • Voted YES on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare co-pay. (Feb 2006) • Repeal any federal health care takeover. (Jul 2010) • Deauthorize funding for Obamacare. (Jul 2010) • Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Law. (Jan 2011) I found his more recent record is summarized at Wikipedia: Given this record I think that Dr. Price is quite unrepresentative of physicians broadly. His views play well in his northern Georgia congressional district, well known as one of the most conservative areas in the nation and perhaps the last bastions of the Jim Crow South. Dr. Price is poised, as are many of Trump's nominees, to roll back domestic policy by half a century at the expense of ordinary Americans and for the benefit of corporate interests. But do you expect a billionaire real estate developer to appoint people who really worry about average folks, much less disadvantaged folks. Do you really expect this president who has been "successful" bending rules and bullying people to consider the rule of law a valuable tool in the improvement of the planet and human society?

Dan Morgenstern (Monday, December 12, 2016)

Tom Price

Tom Price has a clear record on health care...as the Atlantic concluded...\"What does seem clear, though, is that the department in charge of public insurance, insurance for children, delivery-system innovation, protecting transgender healthcare rights, and providing women’s health services will now be led by a man who wants to contract public insurance, voted against expanding children’s insurance, is against delivery-system reforms, and wants to remove the government from the business of providing protections and services for transgender people and women." He is in favor of medicare premium support. While he may be a friend of Gordon's and considered approachable, his ideas seem dangerous to the healthcare of the disadvantaged.

Edward Walworth MD (Monday, December 12, 2016)

Dr. Tom Price

The American College of Surgeons, of which Dr. Price is a Fellow, has also supported the nomination. While not endorsing all of his stances, the College notes that it has worked for years with Dr. Price and looks forward to that continuing relationship. Personally, I think it would be disastrous to dismantle the ACA, not to mention Medicare as we know it. I retired before the ACA went into effect and am now enjoying the benefits of Medicare.

Jacqueline Cerrito (Saturday, December 10, 2016)

Senior Citizens

Removing Medicare the way it's structured now would put Senior Citizens in Dire Straights since they will be getting less income by the increase in cost for 2017. How will we be able to survive, think about it before you act irresponsibly, sir.

Nicholas Knowland (Friday, December 09, 2016)

Good Qualities

Ideally honesty would be a quality of all government officials and it is encouraging to read that Gordon Smith can witness to Dr. Price as both approachable and honest. I think many are concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the incoming government\'s plans for health care and the potential impact it could have on patients and health care systems who have begun to adjust to or even depend on the paradigm shifts that occurred with the ACA. Recognizing that the next government may desire to institute significant changes to the health care system, it will be extremely helpful if Dr. Price provides dependable information about those changes and also to have a health care leader who is open to feedback from important stakeholders such as patients, physicians and hospitals. In such an instance there is every hope that he will be of great benefit to the public health and the clinicians working to serve its cause.

Jabbar Fazeli, MD (Thursday, December 08, 2016)

MMA president elect

Thanks Peter,This is useful. MMA members shouldn't expect universal healthcare form the new administration, but perhaps Dr. price can deliver on reducing administrative burden and improving physician autonomy. It can\'t hurt them to ask, so I hope the AMA and others ask for what I physicians really want directly and without ambiguity.

Gregory D\\\'Augustine (Thursday, December 08, 2016)

Tom Price and DHHS

In this day of "pseudo news" or outright false "news" I think it would be helpful if the comments about Dr. Price's positions be supported with direct quotes.rnFor example the comment "intent on systematically weakening, if not demolishing, the nation’s health care safety net". is inflammatory and polarizing. So why not specifically cite his comments about such issues? These can, of course, be taken out of context. But that's still much better than simply making claims without evidence.

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