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Dr. Price Leavin’ On a Jet Plane

Walter Eisner • Thu, October 5th, 2017

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Tom Price, M.D., the orthopedic surgeon and Secretary of Health and Human Services, resigned on September 29, 2017, after seven and a half months on the job.

According to the New York Times, President Trump "berated" Price in the Oval Office for about two hours on the day of his resignation because he didn't like the "optics" that Price spent almost $1 million on private chartered and military jet travel.

Price, a former Georgia seven-term congressman, had been the Republican architect of Repeal and Replace Obamacare as chair of the House Budget Committee. Trump then brought him into the Administration in a failed effort to kill off Obamacare for good.

During a joint public appearance earlier in the year, Trump rhetorically asked Price if he was going to get the votes to repeal Obamacare. Answering his own question, Trump said, "He better get them, otherwise I'll say, 'Tom you're fired'."

First, Do No Harm

Despite failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump and Price, through administrative rulemaking powers, unsettled insurers in the healthcare exchanges with uncertainty about continuing government subsidy payments to insurers for the "working poor." The result was double-digit premium increases in many areas.

They also postponed certain mandates on employer coverage and scaled back the open enrollment period for signing up for insurance under the law.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that insurers expected to “raise premiums for marketplace plans in 2018 by an average of roughly 15%, largely because of uncertainty about whether the federal government will continue to fund cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments and because of an increase in the percentage of the population living in areas with only one insurer.”

CBO notes that insurers have withdrawn from healthcare exchanges, spurred, at least in part, by “uncertainty about the enforcement of the individual mandate, and uncertainty about the federal government’s future payments for [CSRs].”

Price, the Orthopedic Surgeon

The last time Price gowned up for a stint in the OR was in the late 1990s.

Price was born in Lansing, Michigan, and grew up in Dearborn, where he attended Adams Jr. High and Dearborn High School. He received his B.A. (1975) and M.D. (1979) degrees from the University of Michigan. He completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at Emory University in Atlanta, and settled in the suburb of Roswell, Georgia.

He ran an orthopedic clinic in Atlanta for 20 years before returning to Emory as assistant professor of orthopedic surgery. Price also was the director of the orthopedic clinic at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital.

Price is a former member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943 to "fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” The AAPS opposes Medicare and mandatory vaccination. Price is also a member of the American Medical Association.

The Price Is Wright

Another physician, Don Wright, M.D., has been named Acting Secretary.

Wright is a family medicine physician who started in government work under George W. Bush.

He received his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University and his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He completed his family medicine residency training at Baylor College of Medicine. In addition to his medical degree, he holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

After completing his residency, Wright worked for 15 years in the private sector, maintaining an extensive clinical and consulting practice in Central Texas.

From 2003 to 2007, Wright was Director of the Office of Occupational Medicine for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

He then joined HHS in 2007 as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health. In 2009, he became Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Care Quality, and in 2012, he was named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. He will continue in those positions while serving as Acting Secretary.

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