Physicians offer healthcare reform principles

By Martha Kerr
Reuters Health

In what they call an historic move, 10 large American professional medical associations have banded together to issue principles for the reform of the country’s healthcare system.

The eleven Principles for the Reform of the U. S. Health Care System were issued today, and are “intended to help provide the impetus for bipartisan Congressional action to cover the uninsured,” according to a statement from the alliance.

The associations involved in crafting the principles are the American Medical Association; the American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons; the American College of Cardiology; the American College of Emergency Physicians; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; the American College of Physicians; the American College of Surgeons; the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians; and the American Osteopathic Association.

“Healthcare coverage for all is needed to ensure quality of care and to improve the health status of Americans,” the first principle states. Healthcare should be provided “without unreasonable financial barriers to care.”

The associations also call for catastrophic health coverage for all to protect Americans from financial ruin.

Access to and financing for appropriate health services “must be a shared public/private cooperative effort,” the reformers say. Cost management “by all stakeholders … is critical to attaining a workable, affordable and sustainable healthcare system.”

The coalition also stipulates a reduction of administrative systems, which is essential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and maximize funding for healthcare services. Quality and safety must also be improved.

Sufficient funding must also be earmarked for research and education, for preventive and trauma care and for mental health services.

The final principle is for “comprehensive medical liability reform,” which is “essential to ensure access to quality healthcare.”

President of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Rick Kellerman told Reuters Health that the coalition is “historic” and encompasses the majority of physicians practicing in the US.

“Physicians see how dysfunctional our healthcare system is,” said Dr. Kellerman, who is on the faculty of the University of Kansas School of Medicine and a family physician in Wichita.

The states are serving as incubators of a variety of approaches to healthcare reform, such as seen with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal for California and laws covering healthcare coverage in Massachusetts and Virginia. “We are seeing a convergence of thought processes,” Dr. Kellerman commented.

“Forty-seven million Americans are without healthcare insurance…and the vast majority of those individuals work. Many have two jobs,” Dr. Kellerman pointed out.

He said other associations, including health insurance companies, are also working to propose solutions to healthcare system and a statement from them may be issued as early as next week.
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