Tom Price resigns as HHS secretary – what does this mean for independent physicians? October 4, 2017
Amid controversy surrounding his use of private, chartered flights on official business, which he used extensively rather than flying commercial, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price resigned on September 29, 2017.
Just over seven months after being confirmed to the HHS post, Price offered his resignation and President Trump accepted. During those seven months, Price, a physician himself, was instrumental in helping independent physicians navigate through and manage requirements set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Trump named Don J. Wright, a deputy assistant secretary for health and the director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, to serve as acting secretary, effective with Price’s resignation. How long Wright will hold the position and whether he will continue to push through the changes that helped independent physicians overcome many of the regulatory challenges is yet to be seen.
It appears that Price is hopeful that his efforts on behalf of independent physicians will continue. In his resignation letter, he stated that he has “spent 40 years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first.” He emphasized the need to continue with his initiatives, regretting that “the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives. Success on these issues is more important than any one person.”
Modern Healthcare guest columnist Jeff Goldsmith, national adviser at Navigant Healthcare and an associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Virginia, remarked at the end of August that Price had accomplished much for independent physicians in his short tenure. Notably, most independent physicians have been exempted from the Merit-based Incentive Payment System reporting requirements of MACRA for 2018.
Goldsmith listed a number of additional upcoming policy options, noting that it is “possible that this is just the beginning of a campaign to re-advantage independent practitioners.” As to the future of HHS and independent physicians, those may lie in the hands of possible Secretary of Health and Human Services candidates such as Seema Verma, CMS administrator, and Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).