MEDINA — U.S. Rep. John Boccieri visited Medina General Hospital late Monday morning to speak to medical staff and board members and listen to their concerns and feedback regarding the health care reform bill.
Boccieri, D-Alliance, said the idea behind the bill, House Resolution 3200, was to capitalize on current strengths of the U.S. health care system, and before he opened the session to questions and comments from the audience, he recapped what he called the “six Ps” of health care necessary to provide affordable, quality care for all Americans:
— People all need access to health care or health insurance, he said, citing the example of underinsured or noninsured individuals who use emergency departments as their primary care facility.
— Insurance needs to be portable, or easily transferred if people move from job to job.
— The unfair practice of using pre-existing conditions to prevent people from obtaining insurance coverage should be prohibited.
— Patients who practice prevention by living a healthy lifestyle need to be rewarded.
— Physicians, Boccieri said, not government bureaucrats or insurers, should make the calls about what patients need in health care.
— He raised the question of how it would be paid for, saying 20 percent of the gross national product is spent on health care, a number that’s expected to grow to 50 percent in the near future.
Boccieri said he was waiting for the final draft of the massive bill so he could “get his arms around it.” He added that from what he has seen, there were some parts he supported and some he questioned, in particular a concern about smaller businesses that would be required to pay a penalty if they cannot provide specified minimum benefit and contribution requirements. Small businesses with payrolls that do not exceed $250,000 are exempt from employer responsibility.
He said under the new plan, people would be able to keep their own doctor or shop around if they chose.
Several doctors said government should not play a role in health care — not even, as the congressman suggested, “acting a referee to set goalposts and let the free market operate between them” — but allow doctors and insurance companies to work things out.
Dr. David Turk said he was afraid the quality of medical care would decline and questioned the viability of the plan for private practices.
Boccieri responded by saying the system currently is a hybrid, with 48 percent of patients treated through public programs and 52 percent receiving care from private practices. Fifteen percent of those patients, he said, are underinsured or noninsured.
“I think this (bill) will empower doctors, not throw away our strengths,” Boccieri said.
Several physicians, including Dr. Patrick Naples, who said he gets “nervous when the government gets involved,” suggested more responsibility be given to the patient to pay, with the incentive of tax breaks. Naples said he thought patients should have the opportunity to select their own insurance coverage nationwide, not just what employers provided.
Naples’ suggestion to eliminate malpractice insurance drew a round of applause from the crowd.
Dr. Warren Rose said he thought the bill was a move toward government-controlled health care with a single-payer system.
“Give them (patients) the tax incentive, roll over the health benefits, because profit motive drives us,” Rose said, adding: “I can’t put my faith in a system that won’t make it better for the patient.”
“Patients with medical savings accounts are more realistic about their care,” said Dr. Kim Bowen. “I think we should be able to treat everyone. We never look at patients as a dollar bill. It’s offensive to those of us working, seeing patients.”
Bowen, who oversees emergency care at the hospital, said doctors are required to run more tests because they have to be right in their diagnosis or risk malpractice suits.
“The doctors were passionate but respectful of the process as they took this opportunity to voice their concerns,” said Ray Marvar, senior vice president, government relations and community outreach, Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospitals. “I’m proud of that. It was nice to have a group like this invited to speak their minds.”
Medina General is in the process of affiliating with the Cleveland Clinic.
Contact Judy A. Totts at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.