WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 15, 2009
I left the practice of medicine – I left caring for patients after over twenty years – for precisely this moment in public policy. I cared for literally thousands of patients as an orthopaedic surgeon, each and every one of them a privilege. The actions being taken here and in two other House Committees are part of an attempt to fundamentally alter our health care financing and delivery structure. It is an historic occasion – and remarkably consequential to all Americans because of the very specific decisions that we will make that may, in fact, adversely affect how they are able to ensure the health of themselves and their family.
As a physician, it has been my steadfast desire for us to achieve full access to affordable, quality health care, while preserving the patient-doctor relationship, without governmental interference. And yet, the proposal before us today takes us very far from the American people’s vision of reform.
As I can attest to firsthand – after nearly a quarter century as a practicing surgeon – no one thing has had a greater negative impact on the delivery of health care and the manner in which medical services are provided than the intrusion of the state – the federal government.
One needs to look no further than Medicare, a national health insurance program established for seniors more than 40 years ago. Under the current Medicare program, patients are often told which doctors they may see and how frequently. In fact, for new Medicare patients, it is virtually impossible to find a doctor who will be able to see them due to the ridiculous rules and inappropriate reimbursement. Former patients of mine are unable – unable – to find a doctor to care for them because of the intervention of the federal government.
Ask your constituents – you know it’s true! Doctors are often told which procedures or tests they may and may not order or provide – and where! I know that Medicare didn’t allow for the most effective treatment for many patients for whom I cared. Medicare patients received second class care – due to decisions from the bureaucracy and Congress – just like the one in this bill!
This has severely eroded the ability of patients and their doctors to make independent health care decisions – some of the most personal we make. The day an American turns 65 years old, they become second class citizens regarding medical care. If doctors are honest with you, they will tell you this. And the doctor-patient relationship, once sacrosanct, is being trampled by coverage rules, inflexible regulations, and one-size-fits-all policies.
When you pour through the pages of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act and conduct a critical analysis, one appreciates that we are transferring the worst of our current public systems to the health care to be provided to every single American – permanently institutionalizing failures of our current government system into the entire American health care delivery system.
This current proposal by the Democrats in charge is based on a “government-as-solution” philosophy. This means more federal supervision and administration, leading to a system built on mandates, rationing, bureaucracy, and taking health care decision-making away from patients and their doctors.
This bill continues to be wedded to a government-run health care plan, known as the public option. It will force 100 million Americans out of their personal health care coverage and into the government-run plan. This is wrong, unwarranted, and destructive to quality care for my former patients and all our constituents.
Or, take the newly created Health Benefits Advisory Committee, comprised mainly of federal bureaucrats and presidential appointees. It is ostensibly being established to make recommendations on minimum health benefit standards and cost-sharing levels. What it will really do is destroy independent physicians from being able to determine what specific care individual Americans may receive. When I was practicing medicine, my patients would bristle when they understood that I was handcuffed in making independent decisions – this is what we will do for every single medical decision if we adopt this proposal.
And then there’s the Health Choices Administration. It is being charged with governing the new national health exchange and being the arbitrator of what is a qualified health plan – again stealing from Americans the right to decide what type of care they receive!
All of these provisions will interfere with personal, private medical decisions. And make no mistake, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act is a transformational piece of legislation intended to erode personal and private decision-making. This is a plan to fundamentally alter the relationship between government and its citizens, turning people into wards of the State.
There is hope though, as there are alternative, positive solutions – solutions which trust patients and doctors. Reform must be built upon dual pillars: a tax structure in which care is accessible to all Americans where every single person understands that it makes financial sense for them and their family to have health insurance, and secondly, have that health coverage truly owned and controlled by patients.
That is what we should be doing – not forcing every single American into a system that, of necessity, will betray those health care principles Americans hold dear – accessibility, affordability, quality, responsiveness, innovation, and choices.
In the end, a health care reform package should empower Americans with opportunity and allow free people the right to make free decisions. Achieving this positive type of change will only be possible by embracing – in a bipartisan manner – a fundamental rethinking of our health care delivery system – a system which champions personal ownership and coverage.
The alternatives available to us are not just a health care system run by an oppressive government or a monolithic insurance industry. We have an opportunity to truly empower those most affected by all treatment – patients and their families – so that our system respects them and recognizes the remarkable personal decisions made by each and every American family in their personal health care.
I challenge each Member of Congress to recognize and appreciate that the action they take on this proposed bill may be the most important they take in their entire public career. For those of us who spent our professional life fighting for and caring for patients, I implore you to think about what will help improve our system – not simply check a political box that says ‘we fixed it,’ when in reality the box being checked will say 'we destroyed it'.
I remain in prayer for that revelation.
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