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Challenging conservative truisms about HCR Print E-mail
Written by Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD   
Monday, 27 December 2010 11:47

     An article published recently in the Miami Herald entitled, PolitiFact Lie of the Year: 'Government takeover of health care', summarizes the falsehoods attributed to the overhaul of America's health insurance system.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen ``government takeover of health care'' as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and leaders within organized medicine, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also falsely called "Obama Care", was passed  by Congress, and relies largely on the free market:

  • Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies
  • Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up ``exchanges'' where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.
  • The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.
  • The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.
  • The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. They  concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers. It's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

I encourage you to  respond accurately to your patient questions regarding this law and impact on their lives and our profession.  Let's remember that facts should rise above cheap talking points and ideological gibberish.

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 January 2011 15:00
 
Reader Response Print E-mail
Written by Various Readers   
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 20:14

Regarding the Pill Mill Crisis - An editorial in the December 3rd Miami Herald entitled "Tallahassee's pill mills" correctly points out how the Republican dominated legislature voted to delay the implementation of tough new pain clinic regulations.  Subsequently, the unscrupulous clinic operators and drug dealers in white coats, wrongly called "doctors," can continue to churn out prescriptions for powerful painkiller.  The legislators seem to be more concerned with ideological correctness and purity than the somber facts detailed in a recent report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (released June 30th 2010) indicating that an average of seven Floridians per day die from prescription drug overdose!  It appears that our legislators live in a different universe than most of us have to live in. In their world reality has to be adapted to fit political theory.  In their world government regulation can only do harm and never do good. In their world pain clinics are successful businesses contributing to the overall economy and more regulations will drive them away from our state.  They seem to forget that the regulations were carefully crafted by Democrats and Republicans to PROTECT our citizens from those unscrupulous businesses, which contribute to the DEATH of seven Floridians a day!!  Now, the proposed rules must be submitted to the Legislature by Feb. 4 to qualify for consideration.  Those that don't make it would have to wait until the 2012 legislative session.  I am not only outraged by this political checkmate but also deeply concerned about its adverse impact on public health.  This issue is too important to allow politicians to gamble away the lives of Florida's citizen.  We need to return to pragmatism and sound reasoning to address and resolve the problem of prescription drug abuse in Florida.  Ideological grandstanding will only worsen the situation.  We do not have much time left and the clock is ticking.

 -Bernd Wollschlaeger,MD,FAAFP,FASAM 

Regarding Jackson Health System - We haven't yet heard the whole story, I am sure.  Almost daily we read anther provocative headline.  Innocent until proven guilty?  OK.  But where there is smoke there is fire.  If the allegations are true, we are looking at bureaucratic waste of epic proportions and possibly fraud as well.   Is JHS a microcosm of our national financial malaise?  What does the JHS situation foretell as we (seemingly) inexorably evolve toward socialized medicine?

-Name withheld by request

 
The Malpractice Myth: Republicans and Doctors offer no solutions Print E-mail
Written by Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, FAAFP, FASAM   
Thursday, 09 December 2010 14:57

IN MY OPINION

In a recent American Medical News article, "GOP state gains expected to have broad impact on physicians," November 15, 2010, the author points out that the substantial GOP electoral gains could affect physicians and the health system. Medical liability reform legislation probably will receive a boost from the GOP victories, said Mark A. Peterson, a professor of public policy and political science at the University of California Los Angeles. For example, Alabama Gov.-elect Robert Bentley, MD, and Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott -- founder of urgent-care chain Solantic -- campaigned on expanding tort reform for physicians and other health professionals. Both were endorsed by their respective state medical associations. "A central feature of Republican health care policy ... has been the notion that a major driver of costs has been malpractice" lawsuits, Peterson said. Subsequently, physicians are loudly repeating the myth that defensive medicine increases healthcare costs by up to 30% and that malpractice reform will stop and even reverse the cost increase. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a physician, said recently on the House Republican website, AmericaSpeakingOut.com, that "any credible attempt to rein in the cost of health care must include a plan to address the whole issue of the practice of defensive medicine. It is estimated to cost an astounding $650 billion each year. That's 26% of all money spent on health care. Defensive medicine does not raise the quality of care, only the cost."  There is only one big problem: the political pundits within organized medicine  are unable to provide any evidence to support their  argument.

In a series of articles published in the September 2010 issue of Health Affairs the authors reached the following conclusions: 

  • Defensive medicine includes tests and procedures ordered by physicians principally to reduce perceived threats of medical malpractice liability. The practice is commonly assumed to increase health care costs. The results of studies of the costs of defensive medicine have been inconsistent. We found that estimated savings resulting from a 10 percent decline in medical malpractice premiums would be less than 1 percent of total medical care costs in every specialty. These savings are lower than most previous estimates, and they suggest that the presumed impact of tort reform on health care costs may be overstated.
  • Physicians contend that the threat of malpractice lawsuits forces them to practice defensive medicine, which in turn raises the cost of health care. This argument underlies efforts to change malpractice laws through legislative tort reform. We evaluated physicians' perceptions about malpractice claims in states where more objective indicators of malpractice risk, such as malpractice premiums, varied considerably. We found high levels of malpractice concern among both generalists and specialists in states where objective measures of malpractice risk were low. We also found relatively modest differences in physicians' concerns across states with and with common tort reforms. These results suggest that many policies aimed at controlling malpractice costs may have a limited effect on physicians' malpractice concerns.
  • Concerns about reducing the rate of growth of health expenditures have reignited interest in medical liability reforms and their potential to save money by reducing the practice of defensive medicine. It is not easy to estimate the costs of the medical liability system, however. This article identifies the various components of liability system costs, generates national estimates for each component, and discusses the level of evidence available to support the estimates. Overall annual medical liability system costs, including defensive medicine, are estimated to be $55.6 billion in 2008 dollars, or 2.4 percent of total health care spending.

Notwithstanding all of the above quoted FACTS, politicians and their physicians allies still place their bets on malpractice reform.

But we all could start reforming the system TODAY if we would firmly commit ourselves to practice DEFENSIBLE MEDICINE instead. What does that mean?

  • Following expert guidelines and recommendations in managing and treating patients.
  • Implementing patient safety measures to reduce deadly medical errors killing more than 100,000 Americans every year.
  • Collaborating medical care in teams comprised of ALL health care professionals including physicians, physician assistants  and ARNPs.
  • Moving from physician centered to patient centered medicine.
  • Integrating health information technology into our  offices and learn to share medical information.

Even Tom Price (R-GA) admits that we need to  "adopt a set of best practice guidelines for treatment - agreed to by physicians, not bureaucrats - to provide an affirmative legal defense."

What are we waiting for? Let's start practicing defensible medicine today.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 17:00
 
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