Mar 26

ObamaCare: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

By Wayne W. Oliver, Executive Director, Patients for Fair Compensation           Originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on February 5, 2014

flaD AND STETHISCOPEI have been rather vocal in my opposition to the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare).  There have been too many problems, too many issues and too many unintended consequences.

According to a report released this week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), ObamaCare will “reduce the supply of labor by the equivalent of roughly 2.3 million full-time workers through 2021.”

Just as the economy is attempting to recover, we are moving forward with the implementation of a federal healthcare disaster that will kill even more jobs. There is some good news.  There is a new, legitimate “repeal and replace” movement led by US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dr. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma).  This “repeal and replace” effort has substance and includes many thoughtful, private sector based reforms and includes some of the provisions of ObamaCare that address access to health coverage.

The new Patient CARE (Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment) Act repeals ObamaCare and replaces it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that reduce healthcare costs and increase access to affordable, high-quality care.  In stark contrast to ObamaCare and its government centered mandates and regulations, the Patient CARE Act empowers the American people to make the best health care choices for themselves and their families.

The new Patient CARE Act contains several common-sense provisions aimed at reducing costs including medical malpractice transformation, price and quality transparency and expanding and strengthening consumer directed health plans like health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

ObamaCare did nothing to help bend the cost curve. As a matter of fact, cost projections have basically doubled from the date of enactment and the full impact of ObamaCare has not been implemented yet.

So let’s look at what the Patient CARE Act would do. First and foremost, it would completely repeal ObamaCare. The Patient CARE Act did retain some provisions of ObamaCare which were good public policy like the elimination of pre-existing conditions as an exclusion of coverage, dependent coverage of adult children to the age of 26 and the elimination of lifetime limits on health insurance policies. But, the overwhelming majority of the 2,700+ pages of ObamaCare would be repealed.

A majority of consumers and physicians agree that reforming our medical malpractice system is a key component of lowering health care costs. Virtually every medical expert agrees that the practice of defensive medicine adds billions to our nation’s health care costs. In Georgia, defensive medicine costs all of us up to $14 billion … annually. Most of these costs come in the form of unnecessary medical tests and procedures, which are not based on the patient’s appropriate care and treatment, but driven by a provider’s worry about protecting themselves from costly frivilous lawsuits.

The Patient CARE Act envisions adopting or incentivizing states to adopt a range of public policy solutions to tackle the problem of frivolous lawsuits and defensive medicine. States are encouraged to resolve “medical malpractice cases sooner by adopting a Patient Compensation System … modeled after workers’ compensation.” Georgia has legislation ― SB141 and HB662 ― doing exactly what Senators Hatch, Burr and Coburn envision … implementing an administrative medical tort liability replacement system which lowers healthcare costs by the reduction of defensive medicine and the elimination of bogus lawsuits.

Maybe, the work of US Senators Hatch, Burr and the Senate’s only physician, Dr. Coburn, will help move the needle in Georgia to address our dysfunctional medical tort liability system. Or maybe, Georgia leaders will recognize that 9 million Georgians are paying up to $14 billion a year to maintain a broken system which fails at its primary mission: to compensate medically injured patients.

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