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Passage of Health Care Reform Only a Starting Point for Physicians

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 8:20am
The American Academy of Family Physicians

Physicians need to be closely involved as the recently enacted health care reform legislation begins to take effect, according to AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C. "It is the implementation of (health care reform) that we have to be intimately involved with," said Heim, during a March 22 Capitol Hill rally sponsored by Doctors for America. "We are the ones who know how this system should work. We are the ones who have all of the stories about the patients. We know the programs that need to be modified."

Lori Heim speaks at health care reform rally AAFP President Lori Heim, M.D., says during a rally on Capitol Hill that the enactment of health care reform will end some of the worst discriminatory practices on the part of the insurance industry.

Heim told the gathering of more than 300 physicians, nurses and other health care professionals that "there is some great language in the (recently enacted) bill, but there is much that needs to be improved."

During her remarks, Heim acknowledged the presence at the rally of other primary care organizations, as well as subspecialists and nursing organizations. "This is the team that takes care of this nation," she noted.

Democratic House members passed H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, on March 21, and President Obama signed it into law on March 23. House Democrats also passed a reconciliation bill, H.R. 4872, (at the THOMAS Web site, type "H.R. 4872" in the search box after selecting "Bill Number") that makes modifications to the larger health care reform legislation. The Senate is expected to approve that measure.

Heim said passage of the health care reform bill would end some of the worst discriminatory practices on the part of the insurance industry. "There is no reason why my intensive care unit is filled up with patients who shouldn't be there except for the fact that they couldn't even afford an office visit to get a $4 a month anti-hypertensive," Heim said.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., a psychiatrist by training, also addressed the rally, calling for free tuition for medical school students who attend state medical schools. "This simple proposal would absolutely change the dynamic and the delivery of health (care) in this country," said McDermott.

He added that today's medical students are constrained by such large amounts of debt when they graduate from medical school that it limits their options.

Heim also attended a March 24 Capitol Hill health care rally that was sponsored by the AARP and which featured Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

In his remarks, Reid, who acknowledged the presence of the AAFP and other health care organizations there, said American seniors are among the biggest winners in the health care reform legislation. "This year, we will finally start to crack down on insurance companies who think it is okay to charge someone a higher premium because they are old or because they have a pre-existing condition," Reid said.

The legislation also will "crack down on fraud and abuse," in Medicare, thus strengthening the program for today's seniors and for future beneficiaries, said Reid, noting that the legislation will completely close the prescription payment gap in the Medicare program.

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