Tuesday morning, the Trump transition team announced that House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) had been selected as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. After spending 12 years in Congress and more than 30 years in medicine, it would be difficult to find a candidate more qualified than this physician-statesman to overhaul the department and institute some serious reforms.
As his former press secretary, I can attest to his intellectual curiosity, complete competence, absolute commitment to conservatism and, most importantly, utter decency in all he does. Here are five reasons my former boss is going to make a great HHS Secretary:
He’s a third generation doctor – and a really good one, too.
Dr. Price, like his father and grandfather, is a physician. His wife, Betty, is an anesthesiologist. He specializes in orthopedic surgery, one of the most complex and competitive disciplines within medicine.
After finishing medical school, he helped to establish the country’s largest and most prestigious orthopedic surgery practice, Resurgens, which now has 21 locations across the Atlanta area. In addition to practicing medicine for nearly three decades, Dr. Price served as an assistant professor at Emory University, as well as the Director of the Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital, a teaching facility that often acts as a primary health care center for poor or low income Atlantans.
Dr. Price is known nationwide for his tremendous capabilities as a doctor. On more than one occasion, his medical intuition and expertise led him to dig further than typical diagnoses, saving the lives of patients who did not realize the severity of the conditions they had. There are countless people whose lives have been saved, extended or enhanced because Dr. Price cared for them.
For the Georgia congressman, health care is the fusion of two great passions: helping others and the science of medicine.
There is no one more versed on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with good policy.
When Congress first debated Obamacare, Dr. Price proposed his own legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act. Indeed, while the media scream that the GOP had no solutions to counter President Obama’s proposals, the reality was that he had offered his own alternative in 2009. He has offered tweaked versions of the initial bill in every Congress since.
The bill, which I’ve written about at-length here at Opportunity Lives, is full of things conservatives will love. It begins by repealing Obamacare and then proceeds to implement patient-centered reforms that keep families and doctors at the heart of health care, not government. It makes insurance more affordable, and thus, more accessible. It eliminates mandates and empowers patients to make choices for themselves. It improves the quality of care. And it shrinks the deficit.
He’s one of the most creative, reliable conservatives in Congress.
Dr. Price came to Washington in January 2005. Since then, he’s been pretty busy. He served as the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, House Policy Chairman, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, and most recently, Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget.
He’s been proactive in developing creative legislation meant to address various policy challenges facing the country, from loosening the union stranglehold on job creators to budget bills that, while probably unsexy to the general public, would seriously reform our out-of-control fiscal processes in Washington. Instead of acting as a seat-filler, Dr. Price has spent his time in Congress trying to make a real difference.
He also consistently ranks as one of the most conservative Members of Congress, but he doesn’t use his principles as an excuse to draw attention to himself. He has held the GOP accountable on the causes of conservatism, but he hasn’t sought to embarrass colleagues or create unnecessary public drama when disagreements arose.
He has surrounded himself with strong conservatives, like House Committee on Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). His friends and allies are the folks who fought spending before the Tea Party and who dared to offer bold reforms before it was politically popular to do so.
As the vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, he’s raised and given money to other good conservatives to boost GOP numbers in Washington. During the 2012 cycle, Politico called him one of the most “prolific” campaigners for the party, as he’d drive himself long distances to hold fundraisers for Republican recruits or valued conservative veterans.
As Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, Dr. Price understands the grave fiscal danger if we don’t reform our entitlement programs.
The largest drivers to our national debt are programs like Medicare and Medicaid. As Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, Dr. Price created and passed budgets that would pay off the national debt, eliminate deficits, reform and protect retirement programs, institute tax reform and get federal spending under control.
The Department of Health and Human Services has long ignored the looming fiscal crisis as it concerns public health programs. Dr. Price has the budgetary expertise, as well as the practical application skills of caring for patients as a physician, to solve this problem in a way that not only rescues our federal ledger, but also remains mindful of meeting the needs of patients at all stages of life.
He’s just a really good person, too.
After living a while in Washington, it’s hard to overstate just how much character counts. In a town full of people looking to step on top of each other just to get ahead, Dr. Price is the first to share credit with others or avoid it for himself all-together. He is endlessly cheerful, earnestly interested in others and the first to give of himself for the benefit of another person.
He is universally liked and respected by colleagues from both sides of the aisle for his decency, sincerity and positivity. When faced with disappointments, he was always gracious and never sulked. He is a peacemaker among warring factions of the House GOP Conference, and he’s a trusted ally and resource to many from across the GOP spectrum. I’ve been a witness on numerous occasions to his private charity and teamwork mentality, even as others around him would give in to their worst instincts.
Once, I asked him how he never gossiped about other people in D.C. He replied with a shrug, “Well, I guess if you don’t think bad things about people, you won’t say them.”
As in everything in his life, I remain unflinchingly convinced that he will conduct himself with the highest integrity and remain motivated by the oaths he’s taken as a physician and a public servant. The country will be truly lucky to have him serve in this way.
Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.