Doctors' Letter Blasts AMA for Endorsement of Price for HHS

The physicians said the American Medical Association abandoned a core mission of protecting patients by endorsing a nominee who wants to roll back Medicaid expansion and privatize Medicare.

At least 2100 physicians have signed a letter criticizing the American Medical Association (AMA) for its quick endorsement of US Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) to be the next HHS Secretary. Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former faculty member at Emory’s medical school, drew fire not for those credentials, but for his positions on Medicare and Medicaid.

The group, under the banner Clinician Action, signed a letter that cites Price’s call to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as well as his support for privatization of Medicare—positions that the signers say run counter to the AMA’s central mission of protecting patients.

After President-elect Donald J. Trump announced the nomination of Price for HHS, the AMA’s board chair, Patrice A. Harris, MD, issued a statement of support on behalf of the organization:

“The American Medical Association strongly supports the nomination of Dr Tom Price to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. His service as a physician, state legislator, and member of the US Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS. Dr Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions, as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs.”

Price also received a statement of support from the American Association of Medical Colleges, which cited his experience at Emory and his tenure as medical director of the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta—one of the busiest hospitals in the country.

However, younger physicians and progressive groups are reportedly unhappy with Price’s nomination, due to his positions on Medicaid and Medicare, in addition to his strong opposition to abortion and requirements that health plans pay for birth control.

The physicians’ letter states: "We cannot support the dismantling of Medicaid, which has helped 15 million Americans gain health coverage since 2014.” The physicians also oppose Price's proposal to reduce funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has had more bipartisan support since its creation in the mid-1990s. It was reauthorized just last year by lopsided margins in both houses as part of MACRA (the Medicaid Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act), which paved the way for more value-based payment in Medicare.

The letter criticized the AMA for praising Price’s record on healthcare policy, saying, “Americans ought to know that the AMA does not represent us, and that we do not ascribe to Dr Price’s views.”