Trump Cabinet Pick for HHS Alarms Many but AMA Likes it

Donald Trump's pick of Tom Price, MD, to head Health and Human Services has enraged some groups, troubled others, and made the American Medical Association happy.

The battle lines are drawn in the coming Trump administration’s plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

To lead the nation’s Health and Human Services agency the president-elect plans to nominate Georgia's Rep. Tom Price, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and political conservative who has long vowed to undo the act, also known as Obamacare. Price has vigorously opposed the ACA and his nomination means the administration intends to push that agenda.

At the New York State Health Foundation, a nonprofit that studies health policy and funds research, President and CEO David Sandman said the group has big concerns about Price.

“Rep. Price has been one of the most ardent opponents of Obamacare,” Sandman said in an email, “His prior plans to replace the law are likely to benefit the wealthy and those without serious medical conditions, while possibly exposing the poor and the sick to greater risk..”

Sandman added, “Blending a more market-driven approach without seriously eroding coverage gains will be a big challenge.”

Though the American Medical Association has endorsed the ACA and worked with HHS to tweak it into a form more palatable to physicians, the group announced this morning it approves of Price’s nomination.

In a statement from Patrice Harris, MD, chair of the AMA’s board of trustees, the organization said, “The American Medical Association strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

The group’s endorsement appears to be based on Price’s promises to get government and insurers less involved in setting rules and standards for how medicine should be practiced and what physicians can charge under Medicare. He has also pushed for laws that would protect physicians from medical malpractice suits.

“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,” the AMA’s Harris wrote.

Price is conservative on social issues, an opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights and a believer that religion should play a larger role in government. He wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood, further restrict stem cell research, and limit in-vitro fertilization.

The National Abortion Rights League released an angry statement outlining some of those positions and staunchly opposing the cabinet pick.

“Donald Trump is sending a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care,” NARAL wrote.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, Price has said he would push for a different plan, described on his Facebook page before Trump’s announcement.

“House Republicans have a plan to get rid of #Obamacare and advance patient-centered health care solutions — one that will protect the principles of health care: Accessibility, Affordability, Quality, Innovation, and Choices. #BetterWay,” he posted.