Who is Dr. Tom Price?
A Look at Policy Positions
President-elect Trump has tapped Representative Tom Price (R-GA), an orthopedic surgeon and fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is set to become the country’s leader on health policy, in charge of administering Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA, and maintaining authority over the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other major health agencies.
Here are a number of views Dr. Price has espoused publicly since being in Congress, showing that his leadership is likely to hurt our most vulnerable patients, including the old, the young, the sick, and the poor.
1. On the ACA: Dr. Price has led efforts to repeal the ACA, introducing the “Empowering Patients First Act”, one of the few GOP replacement plans to have been developed. In 240-plus pages, he proposes rolling back protections for those with pre-existing conditions, getting rid of essential health benefits packages, and removing restrictions on premium caps for older patients. To accompany these changes, he proposes tax credits which are based only on age — allowing an older, richer individual more financial assistance than a sicker or poorer individual who happens to be younger. While some of these provisions may reduce the cost of health insurance for young and healthy folks, it hurts the sick — those who are most in need of coverage.
2. On Medicaid: A large part of his Empowering Patients First Act involves the dismantling of Medicaid expansion. Compare this to Speaker Ryan’s Better Way plan, which at its very minimum leaves current Medicaid expansion programs in place, albeit with significantly less federal funding. More than 15 million people have enrolled in Medicaid since 2014, and these people would be left with no replacement. Studies of Medicaid expansion thus far have shown significant improvements in self-reported health, outpatient utilization, preventive care, and health care quality.
3. On CHIP and children’s coverage: As the Senate and House budget chairman, Dr. Price advocated for massive cuts to the health care safety net, supporting a budget plan in 2016 to combine Medicaid with the Children’s Health Insurance Program as a block grant, and then cutting funding for both programs by 34%.
4. On Women’s Health: At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Dr. Price was asked about his views on the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one.” he was quoted. “There’s not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.” Evidence points to the contrary (see here, here, and here for a sample of recent studies). He also has a long pro-life voting record, garnering him a 0% score by Planned Parenthood, and co-sponsored two Right to Life Acts in 2005 and 2007, which would have effectively banned emergency contraception.
5. On Medicare: Days after Trump’s election, Dr. Price announced that Republicans would pass Medicare privatization in a budget reconciliation bill this year (a budget reconciliation bill is the mechanism by which the GOP is planning to repeal the ACA, because it can be passed with a majority in the Senate and cannot be filibustered). The specifics of this Medicare privatization plan continue to be detailed, but the overarching idea is to raise the eligibility age to 67 from 65, and replace Medicare with a voucher system that partially subsidizes private insurance coverage. Along with other Republicans, Dr. Price opposes the pilot programs that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has implemented to contain costs, improve value, and change how physicians are paid for care.
Dr. Price is also a longtime member of an organization called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). In addition to mirroring his positions on phasing out Medicare and Medicaid, the organization helps doctors opt out of taking care of Medicare patients and learn how to provide direct “cash-friendly” services. It opposes electronic health records, believes that illegal immigrants are “bringing in deadly diseases,” and peddles the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism.
A number of physician and medical organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association, have come out in support of Dr. Price’s nomination for HHS Secretary. We argue in this open letter that Dr. Price should be judged on his positions, not given a pass just because he is a physician.
A number of informative articles have been published about Price’s views, and are recommended reading for those interested in learning more (links below):
New York Magazine — Tom Price: ‘Not one woman’ struggled to afford birth control
Here is the full text of Dr. Price’s HR 2300 — Empowering Patients First Act
Jane M. Zhu, MD, MPP
Originally posted on www.clinicianaction.org — join us as clinicians who put patients first