Tom Price’s Nomination–Danger to Medicare!

Representative Tom Price’s nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should be of concern to all Americans who are concerned about the future of Medicare. Is Representative Price (R-Ga) capable of acting in the best interests of the American people especially if those interests conflict with the financial interests of medical doctors? When I looked up Representative Price’s public service history (first as a Georgia legislator then as a Representative to the United States Congress), it is obvious that the interests of his fellow doctors (he is an orthopedic surgeon) takes precedence over those of the American public. Representative Price maintains membership in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a small organization of doctors dedicated to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine”.   The American Medical Association (AMA), a lobbying group for medical doctors, strongly endorses Tom Price’s nomination for Secretary of HHS.  As Tom Price’s nomination proceeds in the Senate, one revelation has particularly troubled me.

As reported by Kaiser Health News, in October 2013, Representative Tom Price sent a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, the new Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking for a change in payment policies regarding skin substitutes in wound-care.  A few months after the letter was delivered, Medicare changed its wound-care policy per the suggestions in Representative Price’s letter and the result was a windfall for one particular company (MiMedx).  Within six months after the letter was sent, MiMedx started contributing to Representative Price’s campaign and fund raising committees.

Did the letter only enrich one healthcare company?  No, many more who make money on Medicare benefited!  Medical doctors who used the MiMedx’s skin graft product (at a cost of $318 per sheet) were able to bill Medicare for $1371.19 in reimbursement according to the Kaiser Health News article! How many financially-motivated doctors wishing to maximize their incomes could pass up $1500 by simply using this particular skin graft product?  While the for-profit healthcare business (MiMedx) wins and medical doctors performing the skin graft win, what about taxpayers and patients? Does this new wound-care policy truly represent the most cost-effective policy or is it simply a financial perk for one manufacturer and many medical doctors?

Let’s take a look at the players behind this letter. Marilyn Tavenner now works as President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a political advocacy and trade association for health insurance companies (making much more than she did overseeing Medicare for the American people). The letter was signed by eight Representatives six of whom are also medical doctors (Tom Price, Phil Gingrey, Phil Roe, Dan Benishek, Andy Harris, and Bill Cassidy) and one who is married to a surgeon (Renee Elmers). Do these medical doctors get together to discuss how they can influence public health policy for the financial gain of doctors? How many more Medicare policy-changing letters has Representative Price sent for the financial gain of doctors?  Do the 700,000 Georgians that Tom Price represents in Congress appreciate the time he spends championing the financial interests of healthcare industry businesses?

Tom Price's nomination problem

Tom Price’s Nomination and Why This Is So Troubling

Tom Price’s nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) places him at the door where he will be able to exert tremendous power in championing the financial interest of medical doctors over the interests of the American people. The most obvious casualty will be the future solvency of the Medicare program. All the Medicare cost reduction initiatives and programs that have improved Medicare solvency over the past several years will disappear. Because many of these reforms were initiated “at the discretion of the Secretary” (through Obamacare (PPACA) legislation), Secretary Tom Price would be able to dismantle these cost-cutting innovations (as well as many quality of care initiatives) that limit the incomes of his fellow medical doctors and are projected to save Medicare $250 billion over the next 10 years.

As Secretary of HHS, Rep. Price will no longer have to write letters to influence Medicare payment policies in favor of medical doctors.  He will simply have to verbally communicate (no paper trail) his wishes to Dr. Patrick Conway, a fellow medical doctor and CMS Acting Administrator and Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality.  Having a medical doctor as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) represents a huge financial conflict of interest and a threat to affordability measures throughout HHS.

What Should Americans Do To Stop Tom Price’s Nomination

If you are concerned about what Representative Tom Price might do to Medicare solvency in his future capacity as the Secretary of HHS, I would urge you to immediately send a message to members of the Senate Finance Committee who are currently hearing arguments for and against Tom Price’s nomination.  You can reference or link to this blog post for convenience. Please act today and voice your concern over Tom Price’s ability to look out for the best interests of the American people over the financial interests of medical doctors.

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