Good doctors, passing healthcare reform and the forces moving in the wrong direction

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Doctors in PA stand with uninsured patients in South Philadelphia

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, a local physician, issued a statement yesterday alongside many other Doctors, Nan Feyler of the Nutter Administration and uninsured leaders, showing the support of progressive doctors in the National Physician’s Alliance for major healthcare reform. “It’s not everyday that you see solidarity and hear a unified voice from doctors, patients, politicians and advocacy organizations, but SB 1137—a Bill poised to enact a new program of insurance for Pennsylvania’s uninsured—easily brings us together.â€?

Dr. Arkoosh explained that SB 1137 creates PA ABC “a solid insurance program including prescription drugs, preventive and wellness care, and chronic disease management� that will be “subsidized for adults with a family income of 200% of the federal poverty line, which today translates to $42,000 for a family of four.�

Dr. Arkoosh also explained how SB 1137 benefits doctors:

• It will extend the MCare abatement program-which subsidizes state provided malpractice insurance- for ten years.
• It will gradually give a full abatement of MCare premiums to physicians who have only received partial abatements previously.
• It phases out the MCare program after the ten-year period. And it provides a solution for the unfunded liability of the program that does not place the burden on doctors nor hospitals.
• It will reduce the amount of uncompensated care provided by physicians and hospitals today.

As of yesterday, about 50 doctors in the state had indicated their support by signing a letter supporting the version of SB 1137 passed by the house in March.

Meanwhile, Peter Lund, MD, President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, issued a negative statement on Pennsylvania’s proposed Access to Basic Care program.

What he said is after the jump…

In recent months, regrettably, both doctors and patients have been put in the middle of a political debate. And, because of political maneuvering, health insurance and medical liability insurance are linked together through a proposal to help doctors defray liability insurance costs and also extend affordable health care coverage to the state’s uninsured adults.

So, as we lose doctors engaged in patient care, and since Pennsylvania has too many uninsured, now is an ideal time for legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle and the Administration to continue to work together to craft legislation in which our state can reduce both the number of uninsured and the cost of medical liability insurance.

The “regrettably” in this passage isn’t hard to read. The Medical Society is not supporting SB 1137 with Access to Basic Care included. They want to hold onto the money we’ve gathered off taxing tobacco products to find new ways to subsidize doctors and hospitals. The truth is, the money was gathered to maintain access, not just to maintain doctors. We seem to be holding onto doctors.

At a hearing of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday, the Hospital Association spoke to the importance of funding MCARE’s subsidy for doctors through the Healthcare Provider Retention Account. In their testimony, they both oppose including an expansion in health insurance in the same bill as that which extends the subsidy of some doctors’ malpractice insurance and they oppose requiring doctors who sign up for MCARE to accept ABC coverage.

I wonder if the folks who oppose expanding health insurance access are the same ones signing patients up for medical credit cards in their waiting rooms.

Even though some of the larger organized medical community opposes linking these two issues, as Budget Secretary Masch says, they are really the same issue. They both came up to insure access and their funding streams are so inextricably linked that you really have to deal with both programs at once. Moreover, as you can see from the photo above, other doctors get it. We had everyone from an emergency room supervisor, a pediatrician, general practitioners and others out there to show their support for insurance extensions.

We didn’t get to speak up at the Insurance Committee hearing; consumers were shut out. As some of the Senators and Capitolwire noted, though, people who cared about healthcare access showed up and made their positions clear with rally signs while politely standing in the back of the room.

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