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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/1/16

This Trump Hire is Hazardous to Your Health (And Not Just Your Medicare)

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Remember, Price isn't talking about the NSA. He's describing a program that relies on for-profit health insurance and physicians in private practice.

Making Providers Richer

As a Tea Partier, Price wants to cut all rich people's taxes. But he seems especially dedicated to enriching his professional colleagues. As business magazine Forbes reports, Price is an "outspoken critic of the shift by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to pay doctors based on quality and outcomes."

Studies at the Dartmouth Medical School have shown wide geographical differences in the number of surgical procedures performed -- differences that can't be explained by patient need. Dartmouth researchers examined rates of knee replacement and back surgery, for example, and found "marked variation in procedure rates."

Under the current system, orthopedic surgeons like Price make more money by performing more surgeries. That gives them an enormous financial incentive to place personal gain above patient health. But Price is adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act's modest efforts to change those incentives. As the New York Times reported,

"(Price) complained this year that Obama administration officials were trying to 'commandeer clinical decision-making' by forcing doctors to participate in experiments that test new ways of paying for prescription drugs, hip and knee replacement operations, and heart surgery for Medicare patients."

"Stop these mandatory demonstration projects," Price has demanded.

Unsurprisingly, Price also wants to make it harder to sue doctors. And as physicians are enriched, millions will suffer from Price's proposed ACA 'replacement,' a hodge-podge of failed conservative ideas -- including a tax break that neglects lower-income Americans.

Trump and Price: Two Against Medicare

It is now crystal-clear that Donald Trump was lying when he promised not to cut Medicare. Price has been fighting to gut the program for years, promoting Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to dismantle it and replace it with vouchers for the purchase of private insurance.

If Price and Trump succeed, Medicare will no longer need to (or be able to) slow the rate of healthcare cost growth. That will hurt all ordinary Americans, regardless of age, by making their medical care more expensive.

But it will be great for surgeons like Tom Price.

Under Price's plan, vouchers will cover less and less of healthcare's cost each year, until seniors' insurance premiums finally exceed older Americans' total Social Security income.

That's why retiree and disability advocates are shocked and dismayed by this nomination. The Alliance for Retired Americans described it as "a declaration of war on seniors, retirees and anyone who is counting on having guaranteed health care benefits when they retire after a lifetime of hard work."

Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, called it "classic bait and switch," adding: "Trump ran on a promise, repeatedly made, not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Price has spent years working to destroy all of these vital programs. This nomination is a betrayal of the American people.

To be fair, Price also voted against protecting SCHIP health insurance coverage for 6 million children. That shows that his lack of empathy knows no age limit.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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