I just had an interesting phone call from a man facing one of life's biggest challenges, a diagnosis of cancer. He was asking for physicians to articulate their concerns about the current efforts on health reform. I think he is right. Physicians owe it to our patients to reflect on the issues and help guide the debate.
Here is what physicians do not want:
-- That people suffer from illness and not have access to care.
-- That a government agency like Britain's NICE would have the power to deny appropriate care and would use age as criteria.
-- That health care becomes less affordable and a huge tax burden on future generations.
-- That health care reform strengthens the power of the oligopolies in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries which, in turn, lessens innovation and choice and increases costs. The current bill actually has subsidies for these industries that hurt patients.
-- That government price controls make careers in medicine become undesirable.
-- That politics is more important than policy; witness the tax breaks to buy votes in Nebraska and other states.
-- That efforts to add personal choice and responsibility to health care expenditures are overtaken by a centralization of health care decisions by the government.
The truth is there is much to reform: portability of insurance, better rating for pre-existing conditions, incentives for responsible lifestyle decisions, better consumer access to health care information and economics and better opportunities to buy into affordable insurance and pharmaceuticals. It can all be done, but do not buy the line that the current or any approach results in free health care. There is simply no free lunch and adding new tax burdens is simply the wrong approach.
Dr. Steven G. Roshon