The U.S. needs pa­tient-cen­tered health­care to re­place Oba­macare

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - GUEST COLUM­NIST DR. GE­ORGE FLINN

For too long gov­ern­ment has been chip­ping away at your doc­tor’s abil­ity to re­ally serve you. With ev­ery new rule or reg­u­la­tion, there is less and less pa­tient in­ter­ac­tion. And doc­tor-pa­tient in­ter­ac­tion is what is needed for pa­tient-cen­tered health­care. Doc­tors do not need to be click­ing boxes on elec­tronic tablets while they are in the exam room with pa­tients. They need to be tak­ing their pa­tient’s his­tory, per­form­ing a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion and or­der­ing ap­pro­pri­ate di­ag­nos­tic stud­ies in or­der to rapidly find the di­ag­no­sis and in­sti­tute treat­ment for their pa­tients.

Cur­rently, pa­tients are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­creased wait­ing times, in­creased costs and fewer choices when it comes to se­lect­ing a health­care provider. If the pa­tient is even luck­ily enough to be seen by a provider, that provider has no time to give a thor­ough ex­pla­na­tion to the pa­tient.

This is not the fault of the provider or you, the pa­tient. It’s the bu­reau­cracy and re­straints that have been placed on our health­care sys­tem un­der Oba­macare.

Providers are be­ing re­quired to fill out more and more pa­per­work. Your doc­tor has to con­sult with in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment pro­grams to ob­tain per­mis­sion to treat pa­tients. Med­i­ca­tion costs are ris­ing. There are some un­for­tu­nate cases in which a pa­tient must choose whether they pay the wa­ter bill or pay for a pre­scrip­tion. They can’t af­ford both be­cause the cost for pre­scrip­tions are out­ra­geously high for many peo­ple.

The bu­reau­cracy is dic­tat­ing too much. They have a say in what the provider does, when they do it, and some­times how they do it. Pa­tients are un­sure of who ex­actly is treat­ing them. Is it Medi­care or Med­i­caid? The in­sur­ance com­pa­nies? The gov­ern­ment? The doc­tor?

We must do bet­ter. We have no choice but to re­peal Oba­macare.

We need health­care re­form that al­lows in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to sell across state lines. Com­pe­ti­tion will be a cat­a­lyst for driv­ing the price down for con­sumers.

Ad­di­tion­ally, we need a pro­gram that will in­cen­tivize providers to treat the poor. Un­der cur­rent law, providers ab­sorb a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial loss when treat­ing the poor. A plan I’ve de­vel­oped would pro­vide tax in­cen­tives to providers that will help mit­i­gate the fi­nan­cial bur­den when treat­ing these types of pa­tients.

And, fi­nally, in or­der to keep costs even lower, we need to or­ga­nize high­risk pools of pa­tients. Pool­ing will re­duce the bur­den of in­sur­ing high­risk in­di­vid­u­als and low­ers pre­mi­ums for cus­tomers. And al­low­ing those pools to cross state lines will in­crease ac­cess and in­crease af­ford­abil­ity.

Since Oba­macare’s im­ple­men­ta­tion, House Repub­li­cans have voted to re­peal or al­ter it more than 60 times, ei­ther know­ing or not car­ing that it wouldn’t make it past the Se­nate. And, if by some mir­a­cle it did, they knew it would be ve­toed by Pres­i­dent Obama.

Fast for­ward to 2017 when fi­nally Repub­li­cans hold a ma­jor­ity in Wash­ing­ton. This group should be able to im­prove or re­place what most know is a greatly flawed health­care law. But their first at­tempt failed by dis­as­trous pro­por­tions and now they’re talk­ing about giv­ing up and mov­ing on to an­other is­sue.

Ev­ery­thing is be­com­ing clear: All of those re­peal votes were a pseu­do­ef­fort of go­ing through the mo­tions to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of re­sis­tance. The es­tab­lish­ment has all the tools needed to cre­ate some­thing bet­ter than Oba­macare, but af­ter only three months, the es­tab­lish­ment is al­ready throw­ing in the towel.

We’ve had seven years to right this wrong. Where was the plan?

The po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and the Free­dom Cau­cus threw out a few ideas, but nei­ther plan would have fixed the crux of the health­care prob­lem. In fact, the ideas they pitched made clear that they are not tak­ing the na­tion’s health care plan se­ri­ously.

The veiled at­tempt at re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing the cur­rent ACA health­care plan must not stand. We can do bet­ter. Our en­tire na­tion must de­mand it.

We can­not af­ford to keep the bro­ken plan we cur­rently have, just be­cause it’s easy to do noth­ing.

We need a pa­tient-cen­tered plan, one which puts the pa­tient first--not the bu­reau­crats. We can’t quit un­til it’s done.

Ge­orge Flinn is a ra­di­ol­o­gist who lives in Mem­phis.

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