A flawed health-reform bill is no victory

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I have worked in healthcare related positions for 30 years. I was the CEO of an Anesthesiology group practice for 7 years, ran a Pediatric group practice for 7 years and for the last nine years have run an orthopedic medical group and an ambulatory surgery center.

I am on the board of the American Association of Orthopedic Executives, the Oregon Ambulatory Surgery Center Association and the Ambulatory Surgery Center Assembly of the Medical Group Management Association. Hope Orthopedics of Oregon is a 13 physician musculo-skeletal care group that includes orthopedic surgery, physical and occupational/hand therapy and sports medicine.

Congress isn’t telling you the whole truth.

Medicare is going broke. Medicaid is an ineffective safety net. There are people in this country with serious illnesses who cannot afford health insurance. There are unethical people defrauding the system and providing care that is substandard. Insurance companies deny coverage based on any excuse they can find, and worse, shamelessly cancel coverage retroactively if they find someone “forgot” to tell them about their childhood acne. Our healthcare system has some serious flaws and needs to be revised.

I applaud Congress for having the fortitude to tackle this divisive and challenging issue. However I am deeply saddened by their lack of courage when it comes to telling the American public the whole truth, and dealing with the true drivers of health care costs.

Consider this – we were told the House bill would only cost $1.2 trillion. This is true – but what Congress did not say is that they pulled out the much needed long term fix to the physician payment system and voted on it separately. This bill, which passed the House late last week – will cost over $300 billion, making the total healthcare reform costs at least $1.5 trillion.

Or consider this – The Democrats have repeatedly told you that if you like your health insurance plan you do not have to switch to a public option. This is true – just not the whole truth. The whole truth is that if a public option is implemented and priced lower than current commercial insurance rates, as Congress promises, it will create a financial incentive for your employer to drop your coverage which would then force you on to the public option.

I run two small companies – 90 employees and 45 employees. If we were to drop health insurance for our employees and pay the 8 percent fine required by the House bill (for not providing health insurance to our staff) – we would save ourselves $300,000 a year.

The second part of this bill requires every American to purchase health insurance or pay a fine themselves. With the average cost of health insurance now well over $300 per month per person, what would you rather do – pay $3,600 a year for health insurance or pay a 2.5 percent fine? If you make $70,000 a year, a 2.5 percent fine would only be $1,750 per year – much better than paying $3,600 a year in health insurance premiums.

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