Power to the Patients, Please

President Obama has made the calculated political decision to sell the Democrats' heavy-handed government revamp as the one and only possible reform to our medical delivery system.  He has also consistently mischaracterized our healthcare system as thoroughly broken, a veritable healthcare crisis.  President Obama told the rest of us to keep quiet while he made deals with every special-interest lobbyist at the backroom table. 

What a heap of poisonous poppycock.

Presenting the American people with the utterly false choice of a my-way reform vs. no reform whatsoever has backfired precisely because it was blatantly dishonest in the first place. 

The national argument we've been having all summer long isn't about whether reforms are needed.  This ain't one of those my-way-or-the-highway countries.  And the fundamental difference between the reform plans on the table at the moment is upon whose lap the power over one's personal healthcare decisions will fall. 

Go with Obama, Pelosi and Reid if you want to hand over huge chunks of your unalienable rights to the government and pay through the nose for it.

Go with the Republican Study Committee and the plan introduced by Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga), if you prefer that we, the people, keep the power over our own healthcare decisions and actually bring down costs at the same time.

A pretty lopsided choice if you ask me.

No wonder the President chose to dissemble, distract and dodge the truth. 

Time magazine made Obama an honorary doctor. Congressman Price really is one, an orthopedic surgeon who practiced genuine, hands-on, top-flight medicine for more than 20 years before running for Congress. 

Perhaps I'm a bit partial to Congressman Price's bill because he happens to be my own congressman, and the man for whom I voted.  So, to err on the side of skepticism, I enlisted the help of a long-term medical doctor on the other side of the Country from Georgia, Dr. Joseph Spooner, a neurologist in Los Angeles for 30 years.  The two of us spent a week going over Price's bill and making comparisons between it and ObamaCare.  You might think of us, dear readers, as a little citizens committee, dedicated to change only if it's for the better.  Both of us are committed to fixin' only what's broke and keeping government's greedy fingers off all the things that aren't.

We found three fundamental differences between ObamaCare and the Empowering Patients First Act (HR 3400):

  • The Patients First bill is consistent with American values and puts more power in the hands of individual patients, their doctors and the private sector. ObamaCare is not consistent with American values and puts ever-increasing power in the hands of government.
  • The Patients First bill keeps the best of our current system intact and makes highly plausible attempts to fix the things that are really broken. ObamaCare is a crap shoot and disruptive of what is best about healthcare in this Country. There is absolutely no evidence that the ObamaCare-prescribed disruptions are justified. More than 80% of Americans are happy with their healthcare plans.
  • The Patients First bill increases access by empowering consumers to shop across state lines for the type of coverage which best suits their own needs and using tax incentives, credits and vouchers to encourage health insurance purchase, while offering full protection and increased portability to employer-provided coverage. ObamaCare increases access through government mandates, punitive measures for non-compliance and increased taxation. The end result of ObamaCare's increased access will be government-dictated rationing.

The things we liked best about the Empowering Patients First Act are as follows.

The Patients First bill vastly increases access with the use of tax incentives, tax credits and vouchers to qualifying low-income earners and the legalization of using individual membership associations (IMAs) to get group rates for the self-employed and small businesses.  Double-dipping from more than one federally subsidized program is also prohibited and the bill contains necessary safeguards against such fraud.  The Patients First bill also reforms Medicaid and SCHIP by requiring that states enroll 90% of those earning 200% of the poverty level before expanding eligibility to these programs. 

Patients First also denies federally subsidized healthcare access to illegal aliens and specifically bars the use of tax money for abortions. 

The Patients First bill contains no cuts to Medicare and also mandates that each state form its own high-risk pool for those with pre-existing conditions and serious health problems, and makes the formation of this pool a requirement for access to federal funds.

The bill provides liability protection to volunteers at community health centers and for those providing medical care in emergency situations and periods of major disasters. 

In addition, the Patients First bill provides for funding to provide information on price and quality on healthcare providers including physicians, hospitals and other health care institutions.  This database can serve like a Consumer Reports for the health care field and will provide precious assistance to patients for value comparisons.

To increase the pool of doctors, the Patients First bill provides for federally subsidized loans to qualified applicants to help pay for medical school.  Missing in the Republican bill is the emphasis on racial affirmative action in educating new doctors.  Apparently, to the sponsors of this bill, it's more important that a doctor be good and well-trained than that he be a member of a certain race.

A now essential restriction on government power over our medical choices is included.  The Patients First bill institutes a requirement that nothing suggested by the newly formed Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research can be finalized unless done in consultation with and approved by medical specialty societies.  Under this bill, government paper pushers will not be allowed to overrule our doctors on medical decisions.  The Patients First bill also includes language intended to guarantee that recommendations are purely voluntary, not coerced, and that they acknowledge the vast differences between individuals in the eventual efficacy of every medical treatment.

Last, but not least, the bill includes measures aimed specifically at bringing down cost and the bill itself is deficit neutral.  It has been endorsed by the Americans for Tax Reform

Among the cost-cutting measures is the necessary tort reform with caps on non-economic damages.  The costs of defensive medicine are estimated at 10% of total healthcare dollars spent.  No reform can possibly be expected to bring down cost (absent rationing) without providing caps on non-economic malpractice damages.  The Patients First bill provides for the establishment of administrative health tribunals, also known as health courts, which will ensure speedy resolution of claims.

The bill produced by the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Congressman Price, is not nearly as long as the Democrats' various bills but in our opinion, has a lot more palatable beef.  While the Democrats propose a total revamp of our excellent healthcare system on the wings of a hope that the monster they create will indeed be beneficent and benign, the Republicans aim to fix what's truly broken and leave the best parts in tact.  No newly created monster.  Many fewer worries.

And when it comes right down to it, the healthcare debate is the true test of a president who promised a new age of bi-partisan cooperation.  When we asked Congressman Price last week whether there had indeed been attempts by Democrats to involve him and other Republicans in the writing of HR3200, here is what he told us:

"This process has been a case study in single party arrogance.  Democrats in charge denied Republicans even the slightest input in the bill, and now they are receiving concerned feedback from all across the country.  We can only hope that Democrats have been humbled a little while back home, so that they will allow some positive patient-centered ideas to be included in any proposal on healthcare when we return from recess in September."

As we all wait with bated breath to hear what President Obama will offer up in his last-ditch speech to Congress tonight, we can hope that he has learned something this summer and that he has changed his attitude accordingly.

As for us, we're not betting on it.

Kyle-Anne Shiver is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and a syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate.  Dr. Joseph Spooner is a neurologist in Los Angeles, California.