With surgeon Tom Price leading HHS, doctors' caucus gets spotlight

Dive Brief:

  • With a physician once again at the head of the HHS in Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, the “doctors' caucus” in Congress has the opportunity to wield some newfound influence.
  • The caucus, however, is almost entirely white, male and Republican. Some doctors’ organizations are concerned that it doesn’t accurately represent the thoughts of the profession.
  • Price took his first steps toward repealing and replacing the ACA on Wednesday when he met with Senate Republicans over lunch to discuss plans.

Dive Insight:

Price and his outspoken criticism of the ACA was a controversial pick among doctors, who are mostly split on their support for the law. The AHA and AMA threw their weight behind the nomination but other physicians spoke out against the organizations that have otherwise supported the law.

Price is likely to lead President Donald Trump’s administration’s efforts to repeal the ACA and work toward replacing it. His lunch meeting Wednesday included talks of “unraveling the stranglehold the law has had on America’s healthcare system," according to HHS.

The CMS rule that dropped Wednesday morning aims to stabilize ACA marketplaces that have been reeling as major insurers say they will pull out of the exchanges. It is only the first step in Trump’s promise to re-reform healthcare, but the GOP is split on how quickly to push for replacement.

The rule hinted at further action to tighten ACA regulations, including probable changes to protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans are likely to back continuous coverage requirements as well as make consumers signing up in a special enrollment period prove their eligibility.

The last time a doctor headed up HHS was 1993, when Louis Wade Sullivan led the agency under President George H.W. Bush. The doctor’s caucus now has 16 members, but eight are not physicians. They include a nurse, a dentist and a pharmacist.

But the doctors who have spoken out against Price’s nomination aren’t likely to stop voicing their concerns. Female and minority physicians, as well as those who do primary care, want to make sure their general support for the ACA is not overlooked.

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Filed Under: Health Law Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Gage Skidmore