Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doctor-Led Coalition Has Reservations With New Senate Healthcare Reform Bill

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The doctor-led Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights (Coalition) urged caution to legislators and the public as they consider Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’s healthcare reform proposal, America's Healthy Future Act of 2009, which was released today.

“The devil is in the details,” former president of the American Medical Association and current spokesman of the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights Dr. Donald Palmisano said. “We have the best medical system in the world, so we want to make sure any reform goes to help fixing the problems – not creating new ones.”

The Coalition, which represents more than 10,000 people – mostly doctors and other healthcare professionals – has been a proponent of health system reform, but is concerned that current legislative options could have a negative impact on patient care. Specifically, the Coalition opposes a government-controlled public option which would lead to long waiting lines to see a doctor, substandard care, and an end to medical innovation. While the new Baucus bill does not include the public option there are other areas of potential worry.

“We will continue to review the bill, but already we have serious reservations with some aspects of the new proposed legislation,” Dr. Palmisano said. “Specifically, any co-op that serves as a Trojan horse for a government-controlled public option would be a non-starter. Additionally, we are very concerned about individual insurance mandates and a tax on health insurance plans. We want to expand patient options – not limit them. And we need to get costs under control – not increase them. And although I’m a doctor, I’m also a consumer and I know that if insurance companies are taxed, that cost will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

The Coalition agrees that more should be done to improve access to care for those who need it. Specifically, the Coalition supports market enhancements that expand access to health care for the uninsured like health savings accounts, tax credits, and vouchers for those who need them. Additionally, the Coalition believes that rising cost of healthcare could be slowed by implementing reforms such as comprehensive medical malpractice reform and the ability for individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines. And patients should always have the right to privately contract with their physician, without government interference.

The Coalition, however, opposes cuts to Medicare. Early reports indicate that the new Senate bill would cut more than $500 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years.

“Already, there are many cases where Medicare is paying less for care than what it actually costs doctors to provide the care. By cutting Medicare even further, we would see senior citizens lose care and lose access to their doctors,” Dr. Palmisano said. “It’s a sad fact of life, but if doctors can’t afford to keep their practice with the patients they have, they’ll either leave the profession or go somewhere where they can.”

“We hope that legislators will work with medical professionals as they craft legislation,” Dr. Palmisano said. “The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights has had dozens of productive meetings with elected officials and their staffs over the past several months and looks forward to working with Members of Congress in the weeks ahead as we all seek to improve patient care.”

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