HHS Secretary Price may be blessing in disguise for fellow doctors

Tom Price speaks at hearing
Tom Price's appointment as HHS secretary will be good for doctors, one insider predicts.

It’s been almost 25 years since a doctor has been in charge at the country’s top health agency.

That changed with the confirmation last week of Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon turned congressman, as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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His appointment will be good for doctors since he knows how the healthcare system works and he will respect the role of physicians, a Washington insider who has known Price for more than two decades told MedCityNews.

“It’s significant that he’s a physician,” said Julius W. Hobson, a senior policy advisor in the Washington office of law firm Polsinelli and a former lobbyist for the American Medical Association who has known Price since 1994. He predicted that in setting healthcare policy, Price will consider its impact on physicians. “He will first and foremost look at how public policy will affect the practice of medicine.” 

The controversial Price, whose nomination by President Donald Trump divided even fellow physicians, became the country’s 23rd HHS secretary in a 52-47 Senate confirmation vote that broke strictly along party lines. Price is the first physician to head HHS since Louis Sullivan, M.D., who served in that role from 1989 to 1993.

One point that may please doctors is Price’s concern about the regulatory burden placed on them, Hobson told the publication. In fact, two physician groups, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the Medical Group Management Association, congratulated Price on his appointment and appealed to him to reduce the regulatory burden on physicians, including MACRA.

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Hobson also predicted that Price will take the lead on coming up with a concrete alternative to replace the Affordable Care Act with a measured approach. Many physicians opposed Price's nomination because of his staunch opposition to the ACA and they worry its repeal would leave many patients without health insurance.