Dear Secretary Price,
Boston Medical Center, where we work, is New England’s largest safety net hospital. Nearly 60 percent of our patients come from medically underserved populations. Many of them rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which in Massachusetts are combined into one program called MassHealth.
Gary, a patient of ours with diabetes, is an example of how well such programs can work. Gary became unemployed and homeless last year. He stopped taking his diabetes medications because he couldn’t afford them. His inability to keep his blood sugar under control eventually triggered a heart attack, for which he was hospitalized. Because we were able to enroll Gary in MassHealth after his heart attack, he was able to see one of us for primary care to help him manage his diabetes and blood pressure. He is no longer homeless, and credits MassHealth as “the reason I was able to take control of my life.”
Many of us who choose to do our residency training at Boston Medical Center do so because of its stated mission to provide “exceptional care, without exception” — a motto we take extremely seriously, especially when we find ourselves taking care of Boston’s sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable citizens.
We fear, Secretary Price, that the policies the Trump administration is proposing would cut funding to programs like MassHealth. That would endanger patients like Gary and our ability to provide them with the exceptional care that every American deserves.
You grew up in Dearborn, Mich., in a county in which today 16 percent of residents do not have health insurance, 10 percent are unemployed, and 35 percent of children live in poverty. You stayed in Michigan and went to medical school at the University of Michigan, where your fellow alumni have raised concern over the direction the Trump administration is taking in health care policy.
Like us, when you graduated from medical school and became a physician, you took an oath to help the sick and to do no harm.
Like us, you did your residency at a hospital (Grady Hospital in Atlanta) that prides itself on being able to care for everyone, including the city’s most vulnerable. You eventually joined the faculty at Emory University in Atlanta, and directed Grady’s orthopedic clinic, serving Atlanta’s sick, poor, and vulnerable citizens.
Like us, you have seen firsthand what Medicaid programs do for Americans in need. Surely you have also seen the harms of lapses in health care coverage.
Yet you have joined an administration that is determined to dismantle legislation that has improved access and care for millions of vulnerable Americans — the same vulnerable Americans you dedicated years of your professional life to helping.
You and your colleagues in the new administration have proposed repealing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion despite its clear gains in coverage and despite the American Medical Association supporting its expansion. Instead, you support measures like Medicaid block grants despite nonpartisan analysis showing they would severely jeopardize vulnerable patients’ access to care.
We ask, Secretary Price, that you stand with your fellow physicians who know that these changes are wrong for our patients.
We ask that you stand with residents like us who will spend our lives practicing in the systems that are under construction today. Being a physician is not just prescribing medications and doing surgery — we must advocate for policies that help our patients, not harm them.
While it is clear our current system is broken, we ask that any new solutions not jeopardize coverage that is already in place for millions of vulnerable Americans.
Finally, Secretary Price, we ask you to remember the oath we took as physicians:
“… Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption. … So long as I maintain this oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of men for all time. However, should I transgress this oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.”
Yuvaram Reddy, MD, and Christopher Worsham, MD, are resident physicians in internal medicine at Boston Medical Center and members of the Committee of Interns and Residents, the largest union representing interns, residents, and fellows in the United States.