Yes, Trump's HHS Pick Tom Price Is Grifty, But He's Also A Whackjob. Win-Win!

The face of smarm

It's really surprising all the things you learn about a person when they're appointed to a cabinet position. For instance, when Tom Price was just some dumb congresscritter from Georgia, nobody really paid much attention to his grafty investments, about which we keep learning more and more all the time. And before he was selected by Donald Trump to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, nobody would probably be bothered by Price's membership in a weirdo fringe medical group that was founded with support from the John Birch Society back in the 1940s. Yes, your probable next head of HHS belongs to the "Association of American Physicians and Surgeons," which has a normal-enough sounding name, but which is actually a hive of conspiracy theories and rightwing paranoia. Fun, huh?

The AAPS is fairly well known to aficionados of conspiracy theories (and us weirdos who find conspiracy theorists strangely fascinating); they're always showing up in stories about pseudoscience and snake oil. They'd love it if people thought they were the AMA, but they are very definitely not the AMA. Rachel Maddow has had fun tweaking them for their amusing belief that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, and longtime readers of Wonkette may recall that time back in 2010 when the AAPS published a paper explaining how Barack Obama unfairly won the 2008 election by literally hypnotizing voters:

The paper claims to examine Obama’s speeches “word by word, hand gesture by hand gesture, tone, pauses, body language, and proves his use of covert hypnosis intended only for licensed therapists on consenting patients.” [...]

The AAPS article notes that the Obama campaign logo “might just be the letter ‘O,’ but it also resembles a crystal ball, a favorite of hypnotists.”

How good a medical organization are they? So good that "Dr." Rand Paul, who made up his own ophthalmology board to certify himself, joined the AAPS instead of the AMA. Yes, Just like his daddy did. In addition to the quack science, the AAPS is a favorite of rightwing doctors because its "Statement of Principles" includes an explanation that, since any government payment for medical care (all of which is "socialized medicine") inevitably lowers the the standards of medical practice, then participation in Medicare and Medicaid is "evil" and "immoral."

Mother Jones's Stephanie Mencimer offers us some other fun facts about the AAPS:

AAPS has been a vocal player in the anti-vaccine movement. Its medical journal has attacked immigrants as the source of disease outbreaks, including leprosy, and suggested that HIV doesn't cause AIDS but that abortion causes breast cancer. The scientific consensus rejects all these claims. AAPS was the primary source of rumors during the presidential campaign that Hillary Clinton was suffering from a major illness. It has opposed electronic medical records, calling them a form of "data control" like that used by the Stasi, the former East German secret police. Researchers estimate that medical errors kill more than 250,000 Americans a year, making them the third leading cause of death, but AAPS dismisses such reports as a bogus pretext for more government regulation of health care. AAPS was a prominent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and Price appeared regularly at its protests and events, speaking out against the health reform bill.

They seem nice! And Tom Price was an active member going back to at least 2009, when an AAPS newsletter proudly cited a House speech by their boy against the evils of the ACA -- or Nancy Pelosi's "government takeover of health care," which would "force Americans to purchase the health coverage that Washington picks, not that you select for yourselves." You know, from private insurers competing in the marketplace. MoJo notes it's unclear whether Price still belongs to the AAPS; his office wouldn't say, and neither would the group's general council Andrew Schlafly. Yes, THAT Andrew Schlafly. But Schlafly was thrilled by Price's nomination, saying "The hope is that Tom Price will try to steer HHS in the right direction." Like, toward privatizing Medicare and turning Medicaid into block grants.

If you're in the mood to be truly whomperjawed, go read Mencimer's full piece, which also looks at the AAPS's defense of perfectly terrible doctors whom mean old state licensing boards went after simply because they were providing quack treatments. Or as the AAPS principles might put it, interfering with the doctors' "free and complete exercise of ... medical judgment and skill."

In his Senate testimony Tuesday, Price seemed to break with at least some of the AAPS's positions -- he at least acknowledges that HIV causes AIDS, and rejects the notion that vaccines cause autism -- a myth to which Donald Trump is sympathetic. But he wouldn't quite go so far as to explicitly say children should be vaccinated -- the closest he'd come was to say "I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations," so half a cheer for that.

Price also had this hilarious exchange with Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown about President Trump's alleged plan to replace the ACA with "something terrific":

"President Trump said that he's working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation, is that true?" Brown asked [...]

"It's true that he said that, yes," said Price, which was followed by laughter from those assembled.

"So did -- not that he's ever done this before -- but did he lie?" Brown said. "Did the president lie about this? Is he not working with you? He said he's working with you. Is that not true?" [...]

"I've had conversations with the president about healthcare, yes," Price said.

"Which wasn't quite the question," Brown said.

So, grifty self-dealing, association with weirdo conspiracy groups, and refusals to give a straight answer. The man's a perfect fit with the Trump administration, better confirm him fast.

[Chicago Tribune / Mother Jones / MSNBC / HuffPo / Business Insider]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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