In picking Tom Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services, Donald Trump has chosen an orthopedic surgeon who in his congressional career, has loyally promoted the interests of the medical profession — its freedom and importantly, its financial interests.
A conservative representing Georgia’s 6th District, Price sponsored a 2015 bill that would restrict efforts to reduce doctor payments for medical services. He cosponsored another 2011 bill that would have limited reports used by hospitals and regulators to perform background checks used to screen doctors before hiring them.
A fierce critic of Obamacare, Price has tried to block efforts by Medicare to scale back payments for expensive chemotherapy and to limit large payments for hip and knee replacements. He also has taken the lead in trying to impose federal controls on medical malpractice suits.
Most of Price’s proposals stalled in Congress, but he now stands a better chance of implementing his ideas with a powerful cabinet position and a Republican-controlled White House and Congress.
“Instead of having a secretary for the people, you have a secretary for the medical profession,” said Max Mehlman, a law professor at Case Western University, who specializes in medical malpractice and reviewed Price’s proposal.
The American Medical Association, the doctors’ professional group whose members are among Price’s top campaign supporters, says he brings a unique perspective to the job of HHS secretary, a role traditionally filled by foundation executives, career politicians, social scientists, lawyers and public health experts.
The most recent physician to hold the position was Dr. Louis Sullivan who served under George H.W. Bush and was the founding president of Morehouse School of Medicine, as well as an expert on health care in minority populations.
“As a lawmaker, Dr. Price has had the valuable ability to see how legislation and regulation would affect patients and their physicians,” Dr. Patrice Harris, chair of the AMA board of trustees, said in a statement to Kaiser Health News.