Escambia Medical Society Remarks
Aug 11, 2009 -
It’s great to speak to the Escambia County Medical Society because your group is such a positive influence in our local community. As physicians, YOU are on the front lines in the health care debate, and I am honored to talk with you about how the proposed health care legislation will affect us here in Northwest Florida.
All of us in this room know that the United States health care system needs to be reformed. Costs are rising, millions of American families are uninsured, malpractice lawsuits are unrestrained, and people are denied proper care.
I often hear that America has the best health care system in the world. This is without a doubt true. But that does NOT mean we shouldn’t strive to make it even better. We must work to make it more affordable and more accessible. Congress must work to reform health care in a way that is consumer-driven…patient-driven…and in a way that’s puts medical decisions in our doctors’ hands, not the government’s hands.
Unfortunately, the legislation before us in Congress does not accomplish these goals. In the House, the majority party is pushing HR 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. But this bill is neither affordable nor does it provide many choices for health care.
In fact, it does quite the opposite. HR 3200 costs ONE POINT SIX TRILLION dollars; it forces people into GOVERNMENT-RUN health care; and it will actually RAISE the cost of health care for Americans.
This legislation will also affect patients’ health care choices. An independent study estimates that 114 MILLION people will be forced out of their employer-sponsored health coverage and put into a massive government-run plan. Because the government will pay a lower, set-rate to physicians, the government plan will naturally be the cheaper option, and Americans would naturally migrate to this plan. A government “option” is just the first step towards a single-payer system—one we cannot afford.
A government-run plan is not free-market and is not competitive. The majority party has repeatedly refused to eliminate cost grounds as a factor in coverage decisions, which may lead to delay or denial of life-saving treatments. Health care rationing by the government is not the way to reform our health care system.
Not only will HR 3200 increase costs to American patients, it will also increase costs to American doctors.
The government plan will link physician reimbursement to Medicare payment rates, which on average are 20 percent lower than private insurance payment rates. This will result in a NET DECREASE in physician reimbursement levels of $16,207 annually—even after accounting for additional revenue from newly ensured patients.
With Baptist Hospital, West Florida Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital, and countless other medical facilities in this area, health care providers have a significant impact in Escambia County and throughout Northwest Florida. Across the First Congressional District of Florida, hospitals would lose up to 360 million dollars under the proposed plan. Skilled nursing facilities stand to lose up to an additional 142 million.
These cuts are unacceptable and dangerous to our doctors and to our patients and must be removed from any legislation under consideration.
When you add up the costs to the taxpayers, the costs to the patients, and the cost to the physicians, the total cost of HR 3200 is far too great for this country. Mandating benefits, forcing patients into government-run care, closing hospitals, increasing taxes—this is not the way to reform American health care.
There is a better way to fix the system…one that doesn’t raise taxes, doesn’t make drastic cuts to patient care, and doesn’t lead to rationing of treatment.
Health-care reform should be consumer-driven. It should focus on the affordability issue FIRST, and then turn to accessibility. Bringing down the cost of medicine will naturally lead to an expansion of insurance coverage. Reform should increase insurance portability, prevent care rationing, and emphasize preventative care.
And most importantly, any meaningful legislation will address the issue of tort reform. You know better than anyone the costs of malpractice insurance. Most of these costs are borne by the doctors and some costs are inevitably passed on to the patients. If we can limit frivolous lawsuits and exorbitant damages, we can bring down the cost of medicine for physicians and patients.
THIS is the best way to reform our American health care system. I look forward to working with you as we progress through the debate. Again thank you for allowing me to speak with you.