As a practicing physician for almost 30 years, I am acutely aware of the tremendous changes our health care system has undergone. On the plus side, breakthrough therapies and medical advances have helped improve outcomes and allowed individuals to live fuller and more productive lives. On the downside, the perils of government overreach in health care have led to escalating costs, less access to care, and an erosion of patient choices and freedom.

The next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which I hope will be Dr. Tom Price, is in a position to make big and positive changes in health care in America.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Democrats pilloried Price, questioning his ethics, motivation, and values. The man they describe could not be more different than the one I have known since 1988, when we began working together as orthopedic surgeons and medical partners.


Price is an excellent physician who has operated on thousands of patients. While congressional rules prevent him from practicing today, his expert care and reassuring bedside manner are just what our health system needs.

I continue to see patients who had been Price’s patients. They still talk about him and remember his compassion, his skill, and the thoughtful care they received from him. Many comment on how much he improved their lives.

Price’s traits as a healer will serve him well as the overseer of our health system.

HHS has not had a physician at its helm since 1993. That perspective is sorely needed today. Price has the integrity, temperament, and expertise to run a vast federal department that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, public health, child and maternal health, substance abuse, prescription drug and device safety, and so much more.

Allegations about Price’s ethics, motivation, and values are off target. He left his career as a physician when he was at the top of his field — financially successful and a leader in his profession and community — to start at the bottom in political life because he felt the need to influence the policies affecting the physician-patient relationship. He traded sure success and security for the chance to reinvent himself as a politician who rose through the ranks to become a successful leader in Congress, and he may soon be running the Department of Health and Human Services. Making those sacrifices should tell everyone where his heart and thoughts lie, and make us feel secure he is the right person for the job.

Health care is a work in progress. Every day, millions of Americans working as doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, administrative staff, and more do noble work to care for our nation’s sick, elderly, disabled, and infirm. Millions more conduct vital research that improves outcomes and delivers on medical promises. Price understands this overarching mission because he has walked in their shoes.

Most of all, he recognizes that the American people want a more patient-centered system. Regardless of the source of their health care coverage, Americans want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want a system that encourages innovation, choices, and access for all. They want to preserve the physician-patient relationship. Achieving such reforms will not be easy — challenging the status quo never is — but it is necessary.

If Price is confirmed by the Senate — as I surely hope he is — the American people could not have a better partner to help navigate these challenging and changing times.

Steven B. Wertheim, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with Resurgens Orthopedics in Atlanta, Ga.

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  • Dear Dr, Wertheim,

    There are many people who we think we know, until we find out some dirty secret. We think people are happily married, sweet, warm, only to learn that behind closed doors their familes were being hurt daily.

    I have known doctors with the best bedside manner, whose patients loved them, who were incompetent.

    His skill as a surgeon, and his manner with patients, however good it was, doesn’t translate into the man for this job.

    He’s a criminal.

    Well, you know Dr. Price to be a nice man. He’s a man who is guilty of insider trader and stock price manipulation. This is a crime. You never suspected he was capable of this, but he was.

    So he deserved his hard questioning, and good investigation shows us the truth. We can’t let him be appointed.

  • Well that’s just odd. He graduated college in 1977 and med school in 79, and suddenly gave it all up to run for office the first time in 1996. Right. Because residency. So then we’re supposed to believe that. I’m gonna submit that he left medicine only a dozen years in because he wasn’t particularly good at it and he wasn’t in practice long enough to understand how it really works. And he certainly doesn’t understand how it works now. And at the end of the day, congress is just more lucrative. He doesn’t care about patients. He’s a profiteer of the worst order. That is obvious.

  • I’m a practicing physician too and hate all the BS bureaucracy and paperwork. I’m about to go back into a salaried position so as not to deal with. But there’s a difference between being good at fixing a knee & imposing your beliefs on others (eg women) who may not want to carry a pregnancy to full-term, and on proposing tired, non-evidence based proposals for health care that will cover even fewer than those covered today. Not to mention the potential COI/ethics issues.

  • I have no confidence in Tom Price. I believe he will work to eliminate the coverage for pre-existing conditions and eliminate the ban on lifetime limits for insurance companies. As a cancer survivor, I will be forced into a high-risk, high-cost insurance pool. And then, I’ll die, broke.

  • This:

    “Most of all, he recognizes that the American people want a more patient-centered system. Regardless of the source of their health care coverage, Americans want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want a system that encourages innovation, choices, and access for all. They want to preserve the physician-patient relationship.”

    says a great deal, by virtue of what it does not say: Americans want and need health care that they can afford when it is routine, and which won’t bankrupt them as soon as it is not routine. Access is not a substitute for affordability except in GOP talking points, and if you’re making a list of what we need in our health care system and leave that out, then you’re endorsement of a candidate for Secretary of HHS is essentially meaningless – you missed the primary point of policy contention.

    • Thank you for your article. I hope Dr. Price was a good doctor as it will help him in his position if confirmed. The ACA was not perfect, no one disputes it. Premiums are rising and Insurance Companies are opting out at record paces. In FL most of the national managed companies have opted out citing loss of revenue. Healthcare costs continue to rise. Quality of care is still questionable despite the high costs. Providers are stressed and healthcare leaders are working hard to use the tools we have to improve the delivery of care.

      I would hope the new Secretary of HHS would address these issues and put some regulations on the insurance companies. I am a Brain Cancer survivor and the cost of my insurance on COBRA is $1100.00 a month for myself and my husband. My cost for 2017 is for an individual policy will go up to $2,500 per month. Again, I have access to this policy but I cannot afford it. What if I have a reoccurrence? Should I have to use all of my savings that I need to live on for my healthcare? This is what we the people will be watching regardless of who gets the position.

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