Healthcare reform must start with physicians, not politicians

March 10, 2017
Keith L. Martin

One of President Donald Trump’s first-day priorities-a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act-remains unfulfilled as we pass his first month in the White House.

One of President Donald Trump’s first-day priorities-a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act-remains unfulfilled as we pass his first month in the White House.

The president did sign an executive order (perhaps his least controversial one) minimizing the economic and regulatory burdens of the law, giving federal agencies the ability to interpret the legislation in a loose manner when it comes to enforcement. This paved the way for Congress to pass a reconciliation bill to repeal parts of the law with a self-imposed deadline of January 27 to create repeal legislation. That deadline too has clearly passed.

Depending on what day physicians pick up a newspaper, ACA 2.0, Trumpcare, or whatever you want to call it, will either arrive this spring or by the end of the year. This has left many physicians in a state of limbo, operating as usual with health coverage in place for 2017, but always with one eye on the news, just in case something arises. (See our feature story on how physicians are dealing with this uncertainty on page XX).

The current atmosphere in D.C. has gone from “repeal” to “repair,” with some prominent Republicans (notably Sens. Orrin Hatch and Lamar Alexander) conceding that perhaps some of the law’s provisions can remain versus a massive shift that would change the lives of the 22 million or so who rely on the law for their insurance coverage.

And even popular opinion on the law has changed. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that public support for Obamacare is at an all-time high.

So there appears to be a window of opportunity where what was once the target of a wrecking ball is perhaps in line for a renovation instead. And this is where physicians come in.

Eight years ago, physicians lamented chatter coming from the nation’s capital about what healthcare reform would look like. Many, including some reading this very column, noted that large healthcare organizations weren’t speaking on their behalf or in the best interest of doctors nationwide.

 

And here we are again, at a pivotal moment in healthcare coverage, patient access and physician reimbursement requiring the input of those on the front lines of improving care. 

Politicians should not be the ones repairing or replacing the Affordable Care Act. Physicians should be the ones to decide what is working, revise what isn’t and suggest new advancements for the betterment of their patients.

So rather than waiting for lawmakers to come up with a plan physicians may or may not agree with, doctors should write a letter, make a call, gather colleagues and go to the local newspaper office or television station to make a case and share insight.  

Tell us too. Send me an e-mail at keith.martin@ubm.com with your thoughts on how to improve healthcare in the U.S.

Bottom line: Physicians need to make their voices heard.

In medicine, second chances are rare. Physicians have an opportunity to make this medical limbo work for them and help drive change versus being an unhappy passenger. It’s time to take the wheel. 

Keith L. Martin is editorial director of Medical Economics. How would you improve U.S. healthcare? Tell us at medec@ubm.com.

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