I am delighted with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has been an outspoken opponent of ObamaCare, but not reckless in his approach for reform. The House budget committee chairman is a former orthopedic surgeon who has said that it’s “important that Washington not be in charge of health care.” To that I say, Amen.
There are a few indications that we can expect a smooth transition for Price once he is confirmed, as he has worked with GOP leadership and House Speaker Ryan on budgetary means, as well as helping to shape “A Better Way,” the Republican alternative to ObamaCare.
Price himself put forth a plan called the “Empowering Patients First Act,” which includes refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for people to buy insurance themselves if they don’t have access to coverage through an employer or government program. His plan also includes provisions so that people in Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare can opt out and get tax credits toward the cost of private coverage.
Ryan has previously acknowledged that “A Better Way” includes some of Price’s ideas, which also include allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines as well as making insurance available to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions by helping states set up new high-risk pools or other programs for such enrollees. Price has also hinted in the past that whatever the Republicans put forth to replace ObamaCare will bear “significant resemblance” to the 2015 GOP measure vetoed by President Obama.
From this statement we can predict that any future plan will include slashes to Medicaid expansion, subsidies to help middle class Americans buy private policies and tax penalties for those who refuse to get coverage, which can help cut down on soaring premiums for this population.
I believe that bringing in an actual physician, rather than a politician hell-bent on scoring points for his party, will help mend fences between Democrats and Republicans. In D.C. terms, Price can be considered a newbie as he only came on the scene in 2005. Before that, he spent time teaching at Emory School of Medicine and 20 years in a clinical setting before becoming the first Republican Senate Majority Leader in the history of the state. Price’s hands-on experience in the exam room should help enlighten those focused on policies that take away from doctor-patient relationships.
He’s been critical of ObamaCare’s move away from fee-for-service medicine to value-based care, and particularly of Medicare’s mandatory bundled payment initiatives, which I too would like to see reversed. I have witnessed colleagues and other physicians shy away from Medicare and Medicaid patients, refuse to accept any new patients and cut down on services offered over concerns about cost and government reimbursement. Not only does this destroy the public’s trust in medicine, but it makes the exam room become a sterile place. Patients should trust that we will always act to improve their standards of care, not refuse to go the extra mile for them over fear of not being able to stay afloat.
All of us in the medical field, including Price, proudly recited the Hippocratic Oath, but ObamaCare has forced many to abandon their passion. I believe Price is willing and eager to lead us all back on the right path, and restore America’s trust in medicine.