Tom Price, Trump’s pick for HHS head, opposed by NYC doctors

Priscilla Chukwueke, a psychiatrist at Harlem Hospital, wants  to
Priscilla Chukwueke, a psychiatrist at Harlem Hospital, wants to “make America healthy again” by refusing to confirm Georgia Congressman Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The massive rollback of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that Republicans plan is a “strategic attempt to perpetuate injustice” and — in a nod to Senator Chuck Schumer’s line — will “make America sick again,” Dr. Priscilla Chukwueke, a resident psychiatrist at Harlem Hospital, said Thursday at a Lower East Side news conference.

Chukwueke, who lauded the ACA for expanding access to care for people with mental health disorders, charged that policies championed by Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, put “politics and profits over patients” and would lead to increased anguish for New Yorkers.

Chukwueke was one of about a dozen physicians, including city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, who appeared in freezing temperatures outside the Catherine M. Abate Health Center to oppose Price’s nomination.

Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, has advocated segregating sick patients into “high risk pools” and eliminating federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Price has also supported cutting Medicaid and privatizing Medicare.

“In this instance, the Price is very wrong,” said Dr. Oliver Fein, chair of Physicians for a National Health Program. Fein urged New Yorkers to tell Sens. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to vote against Price’s confirmation.

The senators “are standing strong now,” but will need the support of their constituencies to withstand pressure to make compromises, said Fein, noting how a recent outcry reversed the GOP plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Price’s preferred method of delivering Medicaid would restrict access to HIV/AIDS treatment for the most vulnerable patients, and Medicare recipients would face higher out-of-pocket prices, while insurers and Wall Street profit at their expense, Fein added.

Bassett said that doctors must not only heal with their hands, but with their voices. “We speak out, we speak up, and we advocate. . . . I’m proud to lend my voice to this effort,” said Bassett. She added that the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid needed expansion, not contraction.

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