While several medical organizations, including the AMA, support the nomination of Tom Price, MD, (R-Ga.) as secretary of HHS, the National Physicians Alliance released a statement that highlighted its concerns about the nomination of Price and how his policies “would significantly jeopardize coverage for millions of patients.”
“Our goal is to have an equitable, affordable and high quality health care system for all and some of President Trump’s remarks and policy plans that he laid out during the election, as well as the Republican Congress and Tom Price, are concerning to us,” Manan Trivedi, MD, MPP, president of the National Physicians Alliance, told Healio.com.
A non-profit, multispecialty group of physicians founded in 2005, the National Physicians Alliance aims to “restore physician’s primary emphasis on the core values of [the] profession: service, integrity and advocacy,” as well as “work to improve health and well-being, and ensure equitable, affordable, high quality health care for all.”
“The National Physicians Alliance is a multi-specialty physician organization, and the main goals are to speak for patients and our patients’ needs and make sure that those needs are met,” Bethany Picker, MD, a board member of the National Physicians Alliance, said. “When it was founded, it was regarding around the ideas of returning medicine to its roots of service, integrity and advocacy. It is much more about patients than it is about physicians.”
Concerns with Price
In a recent conference call held by the National Physicians Alliance in conjunction with the Clinician Action Network, Trivedi said several concerns with Price’s policies, including the elimination of Medicaid expansion, the institution of regressive subsidies that would pay for less than one-third of premiums and Price’s support for Medicare privatization.
“As a member of Congress, [Price] has proposed several pieces of legislation that we think would be bad for our patients, including his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, block grant Medicaid and privatize Medicare,” Trivedi told Healio.com. “We think those would be devastating for millions of our collective patients.”
Manik Chhabra, MD, of the Clinician Action Network, also noted in the conference call that Price’s policy plans “roll back protections for those with pre-existing conditions, remove caps on insurance premiums for older patients and give tax credits regressively.”
“While these provisions may reduce the cost of health insurance for the young and healthy, they hurt the sick and those most in need of care, and that is why we are looking to speak up,” Chhabra said.
Besides concerns with Price’s policy proposals, Trivedi noted the National Physicians Alliance has concerns about allegations of serious conflicts of interest and potential ethics violations by Price.
“We think it is critical that our patients know that we are fighting for them and only them and working to make them better, and do not have other outside sources influencing our decisions,” Trivedi said. “However, Dr. Price’s trading of more than 40 health industry company stocks worth more than $300,000 during the time that he sponsored or co-sponsored over 44 pieces of legislation that involved the health industry raised serious concerns.”
He added, “We are not certain that he broke the law, but clearly enough serious questions have been raised to warrant an inquiry, and we feel that this needs to be done before any kind of hearings are set. The public demands this and, especially given his position as HHS secretary, we need to know that he has no other conflicts of interest.”
Following Price’s nomination for secretary of HHS, the National Physicians Alliance and the Clinician Action Network, along with other allied groups, created a petition outlining their concerns about his nomination to be delivered to senators holding key votes on the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee in conjunction with the Senate hearings for Price. According to Trivedi, the petition had more than 8,000 signatures from physicians and medical students at the time of publication.
The organizations are also encouraging members to reach out to their communities and for legislators to voice their opinions on Price’s nomination.
“Physicians have a unique voice and a unique connection with local and state and federal law makers, and we want to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear,” Trivedi told Healio.com. “We know some physician organizations have endorsed [Price], but there are some who have not as well, so we think there is an important discussion to be had about what his policies would mean to our patients.”
Hope for the future
Picker said future advocacy plans of the National Physicians Alliance depend on whether the Senate approves the nomination of Price as secretary of HHS, as well as what his first moves will be if the nomination is approved.
“It is going to depend a little bit on if [Price is] nominated, what the first moves are and what we need to do to respond in order to maintain coverage for our patients,” she told Healio.com.
The hope of the National Physicians Alliance is that the new secretary of HHS, whether Price or another candidate, will try to understand concerns of the group and work with the organization, according to Trivedi.
“Whoever the ultimate HHS nominee is, we would hope that they would continue to listen and heed the advice of physicians who are in the communities and are advocates for their patients,” he said. – by Casey Tingle
For more information:
Manik Chhabra, MD, can be reached at Colonial Penn Center, 3641 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bethany Picker, MD, can be reached at 1001 G St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20001.
Manan Trivedi, MD, MPP, can be reached at 1001 G St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20001.
Disclosures: Picker and Trivedi report no relevant financial disclosures.