What Medtech Is Saying About HHS, CMS Picks

President-elect Trump has tapped his nominees for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Administrator of CMS. Here are early reactions from around the medtech industry.

President-elect Trump has tapped his nominees for Secretary of Health and Human Services and Administrator of CMS. Here are early reactions from around the medtech industry.

Marie Thibault

As President-elect Trump assembles his Cabinet, he has named two healthcare reformers to key positions. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Seema Verma, MPH is the pick for CMS administrator.

Here is how industry onlookers and stakeholders are reacting to the nominations.

First, an Intro 

As MD+DI's sister publication, Qmed, reported following the announcement, Price spent almost twenty years in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. It's no surprise then, that he has made healthcare legislation a key focus of his Congressional career. He describes himself in his biography as "a fierce opponent of government waste and devoted to limited government and lower spending."

Price has loudly opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has previously introduced legislation intended to replace it. He has also supported the Republican "A Better Way" agenda as an alternative to the ACA. He is chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Price is  also a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus and has introduced legislation opposing reforms that he views as harmful to physicians.

Price's nomination is reportedly a key part of efforts to change Medicare and Medicaid, according to Kaiser Health News and other news outlets. Price has also opposed initiatives intended to move healthcare toward value-based care, including the CMS Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model. The CJR model, which was implemented in April of this year, required hundreds of hospitals to take part in a bundled payment model for joint replacement procedures.

Verma is president, CEO, and founder of national health policy consulting company SVC, Inc. She has a Master's degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins and is best known for her work on Medicaid reform. According to her biography, she developed the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) Medicaid program and worked with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in on HIP 2.0. That program required those receiving coverage to contribute a small monthly payment or risk losing coverage, Kaiser Health News reported.  The IndyStar previously reported on perceived conflict of interest between her insurance reform work and her client relationship with Hewlett-Packard. 

Who Are Key Supporters?

Price has a key ally in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). In response to Price's nomination, Ryan said in a statement, "This is the absolute perfect choice . . . As a doctor, he has practiced and taught medicine, and he knows exactly how Washington's decisions affect patients. As a legislator, he has played a leading role in developing conservative health care solutions that put patients first."

Healthcare industry groups were quick to get behind the nominations. Patrice Harris, MD, chair of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, said in a statement, "The American Medical Association strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) . . . Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs. We urge the Senate to promptly consider and confirm Dr. Price for this important role."

Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) said in a statement, "Rep. Price has been a strong proponent for health care delivery policies that factor in the importance of patient access to medical technology. We look forward to Rep. Price's confirmation as HHS Secretary early next year and to working with him, the new administration and the new Congress on ways to improve the U.S. health care system and advance medical innovation."

Back in August, Price took part in an event focused on veterans' transitions to private careers and the role the medtech industry can play. That event was co-hosted by AdvaMed.

The Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) also applauded Price's nomination. In a statement, Mark Leahey, MDMA president and CEO, said, "As a surgeon and as a Congressman, [Dr. Price] has been a passionate voice on expanding patient access to treatments that address their specific needs.  If approved by the Senate, MDMA looks forward to working with Dr. Price to ensure that America's patients get timely access to the cures and therapies provided by medical technologies . . . Med tech innovators continue to deliver on the promise of a better tomorrow, and we will also work with Dr. Price to bridge the gap between the regulatory pathways and securing fair reimbursement."

Who Opposes These Picks?

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), issued a statement speaking out against Price's nomination. "Donald Trump asked workers and seniors to vote for him because he was the only Republican candidate who  would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid--programs that are of life-and-death importance for millions of Americans," Sanders said. "Now, he has nominated a person for secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, who has a long history of wanting to do exactly the opposite of what Trump campaigned on. Rep. Price has a long history of wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What hypocrisy!" 

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement that he was "incredibly disappointed" by the nomination. "Between this nomination of an avowed Medicare opponent to serve as HHS Secretary and Republicans here in Washington threatening to privatize Medicare, it's clear that Republicans are plotting a war on seniors next year."

Another key opponent of Price? Women's health groups. Cecile Richard, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, "From his plan to take no-copay birth control away from 55 million women and allow insurance companies to charge women more for the same health coverage, to his opposition to safe and legal abortion, Price could take women back decades."

An Opinion from Inside the Medtech Industry

George McLaughlin, head of Solution Matching at Redox, a company focused on interoperability challenges within hospitals and health systems, reflected on the nominations in a November 29 Redox blog post. In an excerpt from that post, McLaughlin wrote, 

Funding for initiatives like the  Cancer Moonshot  and Precision Medicine Initiative immediately comes into question. What one administration presented as an opportunity for us to come together and aspire towards, the next may immediately defund and write off as another example of bloated government waste . . .  Both of these appointments mean a drastic change in "business as usual".

Where I see the most hope in these appointments is through Verma and her ability to modify foundational pieces of the Affordable Care Act like the expansion of Medicaid and make them palatable for Conservatives."

McLaughlin summed up his thoughts by writing, "We will be keeping an eye on the fallout just like the rest of the healthcare world but one thing is for sure, buckle in everyone, it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Marie Thibault is the managing editor at MD+DI. Reach her at marie.thibault@ubm.com and on Twitter @MedTechMarie.

[Image courtesy of CHUCK FELIX/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]

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