Dr. David Dodson, president elect of the Central Coast Medical Association, signed a petition opposing Congressmember Tom Price’s nomination to be President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and taking exception to the American Medical Association (AMA) for endorsing Price, a Republican from Georgia and a former orthopedic surgeon as well as an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Dodson is one of nearly 6,000 doctors nationwide to sign petitions opposing the AMA’s endorsement of Price and Price himself. Dodson stressed he was acting as an individual when signing the petition, circulated online by the National Physicians Alliance, and not as a representative of the Central Coast Medical Association, which represents 700 doctors in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Dodson said Price’s vehement opposition to the Affordable Care Act runs counter to the AMA’s position of support, as does Price’s opposition to abortion. “The AMA helped craft the Affordable Care Act,” Dodson said. “I was among the house of delegates in Chicago when President Obama showed up to outline his ideas about health-care reform.” Dodson expressed concern that neither Price nor Trump had explained what alternatives would be provided to provide insurance for the 22 million now covered under the Affordable Care Act. He likewise expressed concern that Price’s positions regarding Medicare and Medicaid would severely limit access. Price has stated in the past that Medicare should be replaced with a voucher system and that Medicaid should be funded through blocks grants administered by individual states. According to the petition Dodson signed, those two programs provide care for 57 million senior and 80 million low-income citizens. If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were repealed, 129 million patients with preexisting conditions would find themselves stripped of the protections in the ACA that bar insurance companies from excluding such clients.
While the AMA has supported the Affordable Care Act, it endorsed Price because as a medical professional, he’s been “a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs.”
Dodson, who moved to Santa Barbara from Massachusetts six years ago and now works for Sansum Clinic as an internal medicine specialist, said the Affordable Care Act was modeled upon “Romney Care” — passed when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. “Back then, it enjoyed bipartisan support,” Dodson said. “But once it became ‘Obama Care,’ it became a terrible idea,” according to Republicans who had once praised it.
Dodson described Price as an “outlier” within the AMA itself, and said since Trump’s election, he and others of like minds have enjoyed a political resurgence. The AMA’s position has sparked an outcry among many doctors throughout the country, and several petitions from multiple medical organizations have since surfaced. The National Physicians Alliance, 11 years old, has garnered more than 6,000 signatures, about 150 from California doctors.
Dodson said Price’s positions on abortion are equally extreme and ideological. “He defines human life as beginning at conception,” Dodson said, “which makes anyone who uses an IUD guilty of murder.” IUDs prevent the fertilized egg and sperm from implanting themselves on the wall of the uterus.
Dr. Kurt Ransohoff, CEO of Sansum, said he shares some of Dodson’s concerns. “How do you repeal care for 22 million people without providing any alternative? A lot of doctors — myself included — find that very worrisome.” Ransohoff said he hadn’t signed any petitions to date, but added, “I certainly support Dr. Dodson’s right to express his own opinion and probably his opinion as well.”
Dodson won’t take over as president of the CCMA until next week. He said he’d like the organization to take a position on the matter, but he acknowledged his membership reflects a broad range of political opinion. Local medical associations are not able to take positions in opposition to that of the California Medical Association, and with the CMA on break during the holiday season, he hasn’t been able to determine the group’s position on the Price nomination or the AMA endorsement.
Price proved so vocal in his opposition to the Affordable Care Act that when Congressmember Lois Capps attempted to make a brief speech in favor of the Act — one day prior to its passage — Price interrupted her nearly 10 times, repeatedly stating, “I object.” Ultimately, he was ruled out of order. Capps said she didn’t take Price’s interruptions personally, nor did she remember them. As a rule, Capps said, she tried to get Republicans to cosponsor bills that she wanted to introduce, but that in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to find Republicans to whom she could reach out. Price, she said, “was pretty much of an ideologue. I never would have thought to reach out to him even though there are so many things we should have had in common.”
Correction: This story was changed to correct Dr. Dodson’s years in Santa Barbara — six, not four — and that the National Physicians Alliance petition has 6,000 signatures, not 1,000.