An Open Letter To Dr. Tom Price

Dear Dr. Price,

As the appointee to head the US Department of Health and Human Services under the new Administration of Donald Trump, I believe I speak for millions when I say we are worried about what you will do to our health care.

You are a doctor and a member of Congress. It is unlikely that you have had to face the kind of problems most Americans encounter when they need health care coverage or care. When was the last time you had to wait on hold for someone to answer the phone at your doctor's office or wait in a reception area for your doctor to see you? You probably got treated right away because you are important. The rest of us? Not so much.

So while you know a lot about legislation and a lot about orthopedic surgery, I would venture to say you don't know a lot about what it's like to have a desperately ill child without insurance or feel the gut-wrenching fear of not being able to pay your health care bills.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is your first priority, we have heard. Replacing it with something "wonderful" is what the President-elect has promised us. But if you think giving us money and sending us out to negotiate with the health insurance industry is wonderful, you and the President-elect are going to have a BIG surprise. You see, most of us don't understand insurance. We don't know much about the fine print of deductibles, co-payments, annual maximums, things that are not covered, and complicated ways to appeal decisions we didn't understand anyway. What we DO understand is that you have promised us something wonderful, and it may be hard to deliver. I suspect you will be shocked at the blowback you will receive, especially when seniors realize that they no longer have the Medicare they are accustomed to. We are not likely to be fooled by your fine rhetoric about "freedom of choice" or the wonders of the private insurance market.

Try taking away the guarantee of a "defined benefit" in Medicare and replacing it with a "defined contribution." (You know what that means. Most Americans don't.) What it really means is taking away the benefits we have under Medicare or the ACA (e.g. "essential benefits" that include prevention and physical therapy, etc.) and replacing them with a little check from the government that says "you're on your own, sucker. Go out and find a good health plan."

You have a very heavy responsibility now, Dr. Price. No more Obama to blame things on. Replacing the ACA and keeping Medicare and Medicaid stable are going to be much tougher than you ever dreamed. It will be even tougher for you because there are so many millions of us watching your every move. Good luck.

Me and a whole lot of other people