Letters and Opinion and Health Care Reform

Fix what's broken first

December 12, 2009

As a physician, I owe it to my patients to help get health care reform right. From the front line, physicians can offer changes that could result in more cost-effective, efficient and accessible health care. That’s why I joined the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, along with 10,000 other doctors. Coalition members have shared ideas with Congress, but many of our elected officials have turned a deaf ear.

Restricting physician ownership of hospitals and other facilities is just one example, as noted in your [Dec. 7] story. Physician ownership consistently provides care less expensively than “non-profit” or larger corporate entities. When physicians have ownership, they pay taxes and help support local communities, unlike “non-profits” which make substantial profits but pay no taxes.

Other examples:

• The federal government already has two major health care programs that are dysfunctional and rapidly running out of money. Fix Medicare and Medicaid before giving government control of even more health care decisions.

• Allow primary-care doctors to enter into private contracts outside of Medicare without having to drop out of the program altogether. This would incentivize doctors to go into primary care and do what they do best: manage the overall care of patients. They can’t get paid for that now.

• Streamline the bureaucracy that over-regulates and stifles care and innovation, including the morass in Medicare billing codes—rivaling cumbersome Internal Revenue Service tax codes. Doctors are beset by onerous regulations and conflicting edicts, and then subjected to criminal penalties and damages. Even Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act statutes apply because of “organized” groups that manage office practices and billing. With threats of government audits, physicians spend more time and money fulfilling coding requirements and less with patients.

Congress must reduce over-regulation by the Federal Drug Administration to reduce costs. A more realistic risk-benefit ratio for FDA regulation of prescription drugs and devices must be developed.

• Tort reform is essential. Malpractice costs are only the tip of the iceberg. Product liability dramatically increases the cost of drugs and devices here compared to the rest of the world. Fix the legal system so, like [in] other countries, reckless lawsuits are not allowed.

Clearly, more must be done to curb rising health care costs and provide affordable coverage for uninsured Americans. But Congress must take the time to preserve what works and fix only what’s gone wrong.

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Dr. Francis Price Jr.
Price Vision Group

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