Primary care doctors ask the AMA: how could you endorse Price? The AMA says, “Mr. Trump gets to pick his team”

Doctors and other clinicians around the country reacted with dismay a few weeks ago when the American Medical Association, a generally right-wing group representing less than 15% of physicians, endorsed the fringe Rep. Tom Price as Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. (The American Association of Medical Colleges did so as well — dealing academic medical centers a black mark.) His policies and his affiliation with the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (like the John Birch Society, but for doctors, noted for anti-vax, racist, and conspiracist thinking) are both red flags.

Among the professional societies speaking out against the nomination is my own, the Society of General Internal Medicine. I am proud that, in separate letters, SGIM reacted with evidence-based, productive, but unstinting language, telling the AMA and AAMC in no uncertain terms why they should reconsider their endorsement.

Now comes the AMA’s response to SGIM, which I paste in its entirety below. It is notable for several reasons: its deference to Trump (“America chose Mr. Trump, and he gets to pick his team”); its lack of specificity regarding those policies of Price’s with which the AMA does not agree; and its disconcerting air of unreality regarding the contradiction between endorsing Price (or as the AMA distances themselves from it, “supporting the nomination”) and a stated goal on the part of the AMA of not denying Americans coverage.

Thank you for your letter. I am on the AMA trail, so I will respond electronically rather than on letterhead. 

I appreciate hearing your opinion about the AMA’s support for Dr. Tom Price, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. We take seriously the concerns expressed by those who do not support the nomination, and our support for it is not an endorsement of every policy position Dr. Price has advocated.
Here is a link to an article by our board chair, Patrice Harris, explaining our decision.
There is also an editorial in the Washington Post about why the Dems should not oppose the Price nomination. You might find that interesting as well.
As a physician, Dr. Price has had a relationship with the AMA, and with organized medicine generally, for decades. Over these years, there have been important policy issues on which we agreed, and others on which we disagreed. One thing that has been consistent through the years is his understanding of the many challenges facing patients and physicians, and his willingness to listen directly to concerns expressed by the AMA and other physician organizations. I will paste below a summary of policies where we have found common ground.
If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Price will be charged with pursuing the policy goals of the President he will serve. Similarly, as a non-partisan organization committed to improving the health of the nation, the AMA is charged with advancing a robust set of policies established by its House of Delegates, including the healthcare reform principles we circulated to our House following our recent Interim Meeting. I have attached that document to this email.
The AMA continues to be driven by our mission statement, which is “To preserve the art and science of medicine, and the betterment of public health. We remain committed to improving health insurance coverage so that patients receive timely, high quality care, preventive services and other necessary medical treatments. Moving forward, a core principle for the AMA is that any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured.
Democracy is messy. America chose Mr. Trump, and he gets to pick his team. Our job is to work for the principles we believe in. We look forward to continuing dialogue with Dr. Price, and to our collaboration on health care priorities on which we share common ground.
The AMA has in no way abandoned its principles regarding patients, access, quality or equity. The AMA will continue to engage with the new administration on behalf of those principles. It was those principles, in fact, which led us to support the Affordable Care Act, which engendered equally critical emails from people whose world view is quite different from yours.
Thank you again for reaching out, and best wishes for the new year.
Andrew W. Gurman, MD
American Medical Association
Altoona Hand & Wrist Surgery, LLC
1701 12th Avenue, Suite C-2
Altoona, PA 16601
Dr. Tom Price efforts that align with AMA policy/advocacy
Leader on efforts to improve the Meaningful Use (MU) regulations:
Led the bipartisan effort to extend and expand the MU hardship exception for the 2015 reporting year. Introduced H.R. 3940, the “Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act.” This was enacted as a part of S. 2425, the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act.”
Led an MU sign-on letter in the House (signed by 113 members) which was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (9/28/15).
Participated in an AMA/Medical Association of Georgia MU town hall in Atlanta, GA in July 2015.
Led efforts in 2015 and 2016 to have a 90-Day reporting period.
Leader on efforts to reverse Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations to unwind global surgical codes (language was included in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) which accomplished this objective).
Leader on efforts to delay and improve the Comprehensive Joint Replacement (CJR) rule (led a House sign-on letter on the CJR Rule — 9/21/15).
Leader on House efforts to improve the proposed MACRA regulations. Led numerous stakeholder calls; led a House sign-on letter to CMS and OMB on improvements to the MACRA regulations (10/6/16).
Led House efforts to push back on the proposed Part B Drug Model; led House sign-on letter to CMS (5/2/16); co-introduced H.R. 5122, to prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.
Introduced in multiple Congresses the “Medical Freedom of Practice Act” (H.R. 3100 in the 114thCongress) which would ensure that physicians are not required to participate in any health plan or comply with MU requirements for electronic health records (EHRs) as a condition of licensure in any state.
Led a House sign-on letter opposing a proposed demonstration on prior authorization for home health services (5/25/16).