With Tom Price resignation, doctors lost a ‘best friend’

Tom Price speaking
Tom Price is out at HHS, which might not be good news for his fellow physicians.

His arrival was controversial, but Tom Price’s resignation from his post as head of HHS isn't necessarily good news for physicians. Price, an orthopedic surgeon who practiced medicine for more than 20 years, was seen among many doctors not only as one of their own but also as an advocate for the profession.

Price resigned following days of controversy related to his use of private planes for travel at a hefty expense to taxpayers.

Price was an advocate for fewer regulations and making payment policies more doctor-friendly.

Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a Virginia health consulting firm, called Price “the best friend” doctors and the American Medical Association (AMA) had in Washington, according to a report in MedPage Today. David Howard, Ph.D., a professor of health policy and management at Emory University in Atlanta, told the publication Price was a “provider-friendly secretary.”

It remains to be seen if Price’s successor, who will be appointed by President Donald Trump, will continue along the same road to pare back bundled payments and other alternative payment models in the Medicare program.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who has ties to Vice President Mike Pence and has also pushed for reducing burdens that get in the way of the doctor-patient relationship, is considered the likely choice to replace Price.

Price, a former congressman from Georgia, was confirmed as HHS secretary in February. Trump's pick was controversial, immediately dividing doctors. The AMA quickly endorsed Price, which set off a firestorm among some doctors who said Price’s positions, including opposition to the Affordable Care Act, were inconsistent with AMA policies.

While Price was all for repealing and replacing the ACA, physician groups vehemently opposed multiple failed Republican efforts to undo the healthcare reform law because it would cost millions of people their insurance.

On the other hand, Price took steps to make the Medicare payment system under MACRA easier for physicians, particularly for small and rural physician practices.

He got his chance to make a mark on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) with the release of a proposed Medicare rule, which is now waiting to be finalized. It exempts even more doctors from participating in the complex payment system.