He’s been a longtime congressman and an orthopedic surgeon, and now Tom Price has a new title: secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
After 30 hours of debate, the Senate voted 52 to 47 along party lines in the early morning hours Friday to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to oversee HHS. Democrats objected to Price's nomination from the start over concerns of potential conflicts of interest and his stance on health policies, but couldn’t persuade a single Republican senator to vote against him.
Cal. #13, Thomas Price to be Secretary of Health & Human Services. Yeas & nays ordered. The nomination was confir https://t.co/SOmYJ3Dv4t— U.S. Senate Floor (@SenateFloor) February 10, 2017
FierceHealthcare has covered the political debate over Price since Trump announced his nomination. But here are 10 things you may not know about the new head of the HHS:
He’s no fan of the Affordable Care Act. Price, R-Ga., has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, stating it has “destroyed” the healthcare system. He even sponsored a budget reconciliation bill in 2015 that would have repealed large portions of the ACA, but Obama vetoed the bill.
He wants to privatize Medicare. Although Trump said during his election campaign that he wouldn’t touch Medicare, Price has indicated support for moving away from the current system of having the federal government cover the cost of the program and giving senior citizens vouchers to help them purchase private insurance.
He will likely support cuts to the Medicaid program. Although Price sidestepped a direct question about his stance on Medicaid during his confirmation hearing, as chairman of the House budget committee, Price supported a 2017 budget proposal that would have moved the program’s funding to block grants and cut Medicaid by $1 trillion.
He may revive high-risk insurance pools. Price said during his confirmation hearing that high-risk pools can help make sure that individuals with pre-existing conditions have a coverage option. The concept is controversial because the 35 states that had high-risk pools prior to the ACA had challenges primarily because about 1% of the population was responsible for about 30% of claims.
He is a champion of health IT legislation. Price has put his support behind legislation that aims to reduce the burden on physicians and hospitals, including greater flexibility in the Meaningful Use program that guides the transition to electronic medical records. He also said during his confirmation hearings that he believes the government has a role in interoperability, making certain that different EHR systems can talk to one another so providers have access to a patient’s health history.
He is not a lover of mandated bundled payment initiatives. Indeed, Price has opposed mandates for bundled payments, writing a letter last year to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, claiming the agency overstepped its bounds by requiring bundled payments because they took the decision away from patients and physicians.
He is an advocate for physicians. Price has been a voice for doctors throughout his political career. Based on his own plan to replace the ACA, which he called the Empowering Patients First Act, health policy experts believe Price will support regulations to protect the financial interests of doctors, making it easier for doctors to defend against medical malpractice lawsuits, making it easier for doctors to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries so they can charge more that the amounts typically allowed, and taking the government out of the doctor-patient relationship.
But not all doctors have his back. Although the American Medical Association endorsed Price once Trump nominated him, many doctors within the organization were vocal about their opposition to his appointment. Hundreds objected to the endorsement, stating the AMA should support the organization’s positions on ensuring healthcare access for all Americans, ensuring access to reproductive healthcare to all women and providing protections for the LGBTQ community.
He worked for nearly 20 years as an orthopedic surgeon in private practice. He also served as an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine and was the medical director of the Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he taught resident doctors in training. Price received his bachelor and doctor of medicine degrees from the University of Michigan and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Emory University.
His political career spans more than 15 years. Before he became a Congressman, Price served four terms in the George State Senate, two as minority whip. In 2002, he was a leader in the Republican renaissance in Georgia as the party took control of the State Senate and Price became the first Republican Senate Majority Leader in the history of Georgia. He was elected to represent Georgia’s 6th district in November 2004.