Back when he was serving in the Georgia Senate, Tom Price acquired a nickname among the capitol crowd: Ned Flanders.
Price’s brushy moustache and high-pitched manner of speaking did indeed give him an amazing resemblance to the cartoon character from “The Simpsons.”
But after Price was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, he decided to shave off the moustache.
He may have lost his reason for being compared to Ned Flanders, but he never lost the goals that have driven his entire political career: to stop government involvement in medical care and to keep low-income families from getting health insurance.
Price is a University of Michigan-educated orthopedic surgeon who came to Atlanta to practice. He has been a member of an extremist organization called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) that has some interesting ideas about medicine.
The AAPS statement of principles declares that it is “evil” and “immoral” for physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. AAPS criticizes vaccination programs in schools and mandatory influenza vaccinations for healthcare professionals.
The AAPS journal once published an article claiming that the children of undocumented immigrants were responsible for the spread of leprosy. Another article posted on the AAPS website speculated that Barack Obama won the presidency because his speeches hypnotized young people and Jews to vote for him.
You would have to assume that Price is on board with most, if not all, of this group’s nutty ideas. People normally don’t pay expensive professional dues to belong to an organization that they disagree with.
Price certainly lives up to the AAPS principles of opposing Medicaid and Medicare, and he really doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare.
He not only voted with his House Republican colleagues numerous times to repeal Obamacare, he drafted a lengthy bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act once it was repealed.
The Price plan would end the Medicaid expansion that is funded through Obamacare, which means that an estimated 14 million people either would lose Medicaid now or won’t be able to get it in the future. His bill would also eliminate the government subsidies that enable millions of people to buy health coverage through an insurance exchange.
Price has some other big ideas about medical policy. He would like to convert Medicaid into what is known as a “block grant program” for the states. Instead of paying two-thirds the cost of treating all people who qualify for Medicaid, the federal government would simply give a wad of money to the states to spend as they see fit on Medicaid services.
Under a block grant program, the more conservative states like Georgia would have the ability to reduce Medicaid spending by cutting back on benefits and reducing the number of people eligible for coverage. Fewer people would get Medicaid coverage and the program would pay for fewer services than it now does.
As for Medicare, Price is right in line with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s long-standing proposal to wind down the program that provides medical care for the elderly and replace it with some form of private insurance vouchers.
Price is now in an ideal position to achieve his long-sought goals in the medical policy arena.
After ascending to the chairmanship of the House Budget Committee earlier this year, he has been nominated by the incoming president to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Once Price is confirmed by the Senate, he will essentially be the point man on all administration efforts to get rid of Obamacare and put Medicaid and Medicare on the skids.
The irony here is that many residents of rural counties and communities that voted for Donald Trump stand to lose their health coverage, either through the abolition of Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges or the shrinking of Medicaid benefits.
If you don’t believe the government should have any role in providing healthcare, then you’ll be ecstatic about Price’s initiatives.
If you’re one of the millions of people who will be stripped of their medical insurance, you may not have such a rosy view of it.
Either way, Price is going to be a happy guy – happier even than Ned Flanders.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.