By Don W. Printz
This month marked the 69th annual meeting of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a freedom-minded organization founded in 1943 to preserve the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship. In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmation earlier this year of the 2010 federal health law known as ObamaCare, the gathering of health-care professionals reinforced their determination to ensure that there should be one, and only one, focus in medicine: the patient.
The physician should always put the wellbeing of the patient before any other consideration. The doctor-patient relationship is a sacred trust: The patient should be able to tell a physician anything in complete confidence, and the physician must be able to tell the patient the best possible treatment whatever the cost.
Ideally, the patient, with the physician as an ally, should discuss the various options in any treatment regimen including cost, side effects and probable success. This doctor-patient relationship recognizes the fact that every patient is different and must be individually evaluated.
ObamaCare violates almost every principle put forth above. Privacy is a mockery: The law requires voluminous documentation. Every procedure, every treatment, must be evaluated by “experts” to determine its quality, as defined by one of the 159 new bureaucracies. The result will be that doctors will have to practice “cookbook” medicine: The doctor who recognizes that patients, as individuals, may require different treatment and who does not follow one of the “approved” treatments can be slapped with fines and even censure.
Even more ominous is the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is a group of 15 “experts” that, among other duties, will determine how much the government will spend on Medicare each year. Mark these words: It will become the primary rationing board for Medicare.
The panel’s decision cannot be appealed and only a two-thirds majority of Congress can overturn any decision. Can you imagine Congress having to deal with each and every panel decision by forging a two-thirds majority?
As for Medicare: One of the funding methods for ObamaCare will be to take $741 billion out of Medicare funds over the next 10 years. This is funding that will not go toward paying doctors and hospitals for Medicare patients. This exacerbates an already-bad situation; existing Medicare reimbursements are already so low that at least 40 percent of family practitioners and internal medicine physicians say they cannot accept any new Medicare patients.
Meanwhile, hospitals observe that present Medicare payments barely cover their costs and do not permit much funding, if any, for future improvements. Estimates suggest that about 30 percent of small hospitals, most in rural areas, will close because of the Medicare cuts.
The fact that over 25 percent of physicians are seriously considering leaving medicine if ObamaCare is fully implemented is sobering. The fact that we are adding patients to the rolls through a huge, government-regulated program even as doctors are leaving is terrifying. Health care reform, by definition, should produce an improved physician-patient relationship, not an eroded one.
Dr. Don W. Printz, a retired dermatologist who practiced medicine in the Atlanta area for more than 30 years, is a member of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.
©Georgia Public Policy Foundation (October 12, 2012). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.