What does Tom Price’s confirmation mean for allergists?

In the early hours of Feb. 10, the United States Senate confirmed Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Congressman Price is an orthopedic surgeon by training and will become the second physician to run this massive agency.

HHS is the largest federal agency and the policies, programs and services operated or overseen by HHS (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, FDA, NIH, Graduate Medical Education, and the National Health Services Corps to name a few) touch almost every American in one way or another.

As Secretary of HHS, Price will be the Trump administration’s point person on efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During his time in Congress, Price was a vocal opponent of the ACA and was one of the few members of Congress to offer an alternative to the ACA.

In 2015, as Chair of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Price introduced and shepherded through Congress the first (and only) bill to repeal the ACA that got passed by both the House and Senate. That bill was eventually vetoed by President Obama in early 2016.

During his confirmation hearing Price reiterated his desire to repeal and replace the ACA and move our nation’s health care policy in a direction that was patient-centered and physician friendly. Specifically, he has called for reducing administrative burdens on physicians and expanding patient choices when it comes to physicians and hospitals.

Prior to being elected to Congress, Price had his own orthopedic practice and he was an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory. He was also the director of the orthopedic clinic at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital – the safety net hospital for low-income residents of Atlanta.

President Trump has indicated that his administration will begin working in earnest with Congressional leaders on a plan and timetable for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act once Secretary Price is sworn into office. There has been strong speculation that Price’s earlier bill will serve as the foundation for the current effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Advocacy Council is pleased that someone with a full understanding of the challenges of being a health care provider is running HHS. However, we also recognize that over time, we may have differences of opinion and disagreements with the new secretary and the Advocacy Council will not be shy about pointing out those differences with the secretary.

We would like to extend our congratulations to the new secretary and we look forward to working with him to improve how quality health care is financed and delivered.