NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 7, 2009

Increasing coverage for the uninsured can be accomplished without a costly and inefficient government overhaul of the entire system, say three former presidents of the American Medical Association (AMA): Dr. Donald J. Palmisano (2003-2004); Dr. William G. Plested (2006-2007); and Dr. Daniel H. Johnson Jr. (1996-1997).

For example:

  • If the goal of reform is to provide the best possible patient care, let's take the government-controlled "public option" -- and any legislative trick that could lead to a public option -- off the table; it will result in long waiting lines to see a doctor, substandard care, and an end to medical discovery.
  • We could strengthen incentives to purchase low-cost health savings accounts, provide tax credits for individuals and families buying health policies on their own, and extend subsidies for those who need financial help.
  • Also, the right of patients to privately contract with physicians to ensure they have the medical care they want, without penalty -- regardless of what the government pays -- must be recognized and protected.
  • We need to maintain a plentiful supply of medical expertise, but cuts in payments and bureaucracy could mean fewer individuals entering the medical field -- and a dearth of health care professionals down the road as specialists retire early or limit their practice.
  • The federal government should also continue its investment in medical research through agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and it should better reward innovative discovery in the private sector with tax incentives and patent protection.

Finally, the nation needs comprehensive medical malpractice reform.  It is the surest and quickest way to slow down the rising cost of health care:

  • Statistics from private insurers, as well as a Justice Department report of 2007, indicate that upwards of 80 percent of malpractice cases are closed without payment -- and when there is a trial, the physician-defendant wins 89 percent of the time.
  • Yet these lawsuits, even when dismissed or closed without payment, cost doctors time and money, and encourage defensive medicine.
  • This adds billions to the cost of medical care and it also increases malpractice insurance premiums, the costs of which get passed on to patients.
  • In too many cases, the malpractice environment forces doctors to leave communities, depriving patients of their trusted medical advisers or specialists whom they might need in an accident or other crisis.

Source: Donald J. Palmisano, William G. Plested, and Daniel H. Johnson Jr., "What We Would Have Told Obama," Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2009.

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