Passage of the federal health reform bill by the U.S. Senate Thursday prompted concerns for both medical providers and taxpayers, said the executive director of Murfreesboro Medical Center.
Senators passed the bill for political purposes and didn’t address the issues people have with health care, said MMC Executive Director Joey Peay.
Congress reported 40 percent of health care costs are driven by personal behavior and 30 percent by heredity, Peay said.
“How do you affect 70 percent of the costs shown through heredity or personal behavior?” Peay asked. “While the attempt is noble, it falls short of what they ought to be addressing.”
In a statement Thursday, President Barack Obama said passage of the bill allows the U.S. to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people.
“The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable,” Obama said.
Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition, the president said. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick.
“No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need,” Obama said. “And you’ll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party.”
But Peay noted the bill does not address tort reform, a huge driver of health care costs.
For example, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon told physicians tort reform for insurance would save thousands of dollars for them.
Physicians who have been sued undergo an emotional trauma, which may cause them to order more medical tests on a patient than needed to protect themselves, the director said.
“It drives up the cost of medicine having to practice defensive medicine,” Peay said.
Peay couldn’t name any part of the bill he favored.
“I think our Congress and Senate have done too much too quickly and there are going to be unintended consequences come out of the legislation the American people are not going to like,” Peay predicted. “What that starts happening, how quickly can those situations be rectified becomes a real concern.”
Opinion polls show Americans don’t want what Congress proposes.
And Peay fears the costs.
News reports stated the government will start taxing for health care now and the program doesn’t start until 2014.
Peay wonders how health care will be funded beyond 2014. This is not just a federal issue because state’s fund Medicaid programs. Because of “bribery” deals, Nebraska and Louisiana will not have to incur additional Medicaid costs, which is wrong in Peay’s opinion. He quoted Gov. Phil Bredesen as saying the bill is an unfunded federal mandate.
The bill puts millions of people on Medicaid with state’s having to shoulder the financial burden, the director said. In Tennessee, professors are being laid off at MTSU because of the economy and budget crisis.
How can Tennessee afford to put another million people on TennCare when Bredesen had to remove TennCare recipients because of a lack of funding, he asked.
Another looming crisis is that physicians are scheduled to be cut reimbursement for Medicare patients by 21 percent Jan. 1.
“That’s going to be a very difficult pill to swallow,” Peay said. “Some physicians have threatened to no longer take Medicare patients.”
The federal government needs to fix the funding calculation for the Medicare program, the director said.
Medicare represents about 20 percent of MMC’s business.