Doctor’s no fan of health reform plan

Published 1:53 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

I have been a pediatrician in Montgomery for 10 years in a very busy practice. I have tremendous concerns regarding the current health care reform proposals. Since I did not have a chance to speak during the recent MASA meeting with Rep. Bobby Bright, I felt it necessary to express my views in some way. In reading large portions of HR 3200, I see no true reform of our health care system. Instead, I see an increased level of bureaucracy being placed between patients and me.

I have great concerns about the Healthcare Commissioner in HR 3200, who seems to be almost a deity in his powers over health care. These powers are extolled at length in the first 500 pages of HR 3200, which, by the way, looks to me to be the equivalent of the IRS taking over health care, with civil penalties levied against doctors and hospitals for any tests the Healthcare Commissioner deems inappropriate.

Also, in HR 3200, the government will conduct a study of the financial solvency and capital reserve levels of employers that self-insure, to ascertain whether or not their companies are “financially solvent.” So, not only is this legislation an intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, but it is also an assault on private businesses in this country.

The government will have “real time” access to individual bank accounts of covered patients, to enable electronic funds transfers from patients’ private bank accounts for automatic reconciliation with related health care payments. Audits of employers, physicians and hospitals will be conducted by the Health Choices Commissioner to ensure compliance with federal government regulations.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I love the idea of more potential audits by the government. One may wonder how the government will access physicians’ records to evaluate compliance with regulations and quality standards. They will accomplish this using the electronic medical records of physicians. Also very alarming to me is the section of HR 3200 stating that certain cancer hospitals will be studied to see how their costs compare to other hospitals.

In addition, a special panel will decide which treatments and procedures are more efficient and cost effective, and physicians will only be allowed to use these procedures. For example, many surgeries, procedures and medications that we use today are experimental or do not have scientific studies to support them, but they greatly benefit patients. Under this legislation, many of these entities will no longer be allowed.

From what I have read of the proposed legislation in HR 3200, I, as a physician, will no longer be able to treat patients as individuals. However, because no tort reform is included in this bill, I will face lawsuits if I miss a diagnosis, but my hands will be tied by restrictions put in place by an arrogant and over-reaching bureaucracy. I will also be forced, as a primary care physician, to see even larger numbers of patients each day, which will mean less time and personal attention for each patient.

This will occur since this legislation will worsen an already existing physician shortage, when specialists leave the field and bright people stop entering medical schools because of the inhospitable climate that will be created in the medical profession. I can, however, see one group of individuals who will benefit from this legislation — the trial lawyers who bring lawsuits against hospitals and physicians. Of course, we must continue to feed these parasites.

I love my patients and I deeply enjoy caring for my patients, but I fear that I and other caring physicians will no longer be able to function under such a system. I fear that the art of medicine, an ancient sacred art, will be forever tarnished by such draconian health care reform, and that we may never be able to reclaim it. The truly sad fact is that true reform would be possible if lawmakers would make an attempt to bring everyone to the table to discuss options, rather than cater to special interest groups.

But we, as physicians and patients, must fight this proposed reform with all our might. We must not be afraid to speak out for true reform. The American people, not the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, have slowed the progression of this bill already. Ultimately, I believe that is enough American people and American physicians stand up and speak out, we can stop this lunacy and demand real reform. Please stand and fight with me.

Editor’s note: Dr. Fekete is originally from Andalusia.

Cheryl Fekete, MD