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3 things to know about Trump health advisor Jerome Adams

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President-elect Donald Trump spent some time Monday talking with Dr. Jerome Adams, the Indiana state health commissioner, about health policy issues.

Adams and the president-elect discussed “establishing better doctor-patient relationships, the health care challenges Americans face each day with Obamacare, and ideas for enacting improved healthcare policies,” according to the official Trump transition team description of the encounter.

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, picked Adams, an assistant professor of clinical anesthesia at the Indiana University medical school, to be his health commissioner in 2014.

The Trump transition team might have brought him to New York City simply to get his ideas about health policy. The transition team “meeting readout” could also be a sign that Adams is a candidate for a high-level health policy job in the next administration.

Either way: Adams is someone who could end up shaping how the next administration approaches efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and to handle other health policy issues.

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Here’s a look at three things to know about Adams’ career and health policy activities:

1. Background

Adams earned a bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and biopsychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1997. He then earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkley, and a medical degree from the Indiana University medical school.

Adams is a board-certified anesthesiologist.

He is a member of the Indiana Counter Terrorism and Security Task Force. In connection with that role, he has a “secret” level security clearance.

2. Health policy specialties

Adams has been especially active in efforts to prevent the spread of hepatitis C and HIV, and in efforts to fight opioid abuse.

Earlier this year, he gave a presentation on fighting the spread of hepatitis C and HIV in Atlanta, at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

In May 2015, he testified at a U.S. House Energy & Commerce oversight subcommittee hearing on fighting opioid abuse. He began the hearing by stating, “I’m a physician anesthesiologist, and I’m the brother of an addict.”

3. Patient engagement

At the drug abuse summit, Adams emphasized the need to ”be aware… of risk factors and trends in your community.”

“Partner,” Adams said in a presentation slidedeck. “Speak to your audience in their language.”

Some states have more painkiller prescriptions per person than others, and prescribing correlates with unsafe injection practices and overdoses, Adams said.

To change behavior, public health program workers need to confront ignorance and denial, conduct small pilot programs, and use successes to gain support, Adams said.

In another presentation slidedeck, on Indiana’s use of a modified version of the standard Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion program, Adams told colleagues, “[You] must speak to your audience.”

Adams presented two maps suggesting that U.S. regional health policy preferences may have deep roots.

The Northeast, for example, was first settled by Calvinists who were intent on perfecting civilization through social engineering, while Greater Appalachia was founded by settlers from war-ravaged Ireland, England and Scotland who valued person sovereignty and detested social engineering, according to Adams’ presentation.

In addition, states resisting the standard ACA Medicaid expansion program may be responding to an increasing body of evidence suggesting that Medicaid expansion is costing states more than expected, and that increasing patient engagement may be more important to improving people’s health than expanding enrollment in health coverage is, according to Adams’ presentation.


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