Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dr. James Schroeder on 208 Commission

The August 23, 2007 Grand Junction Free Press printed the following LTE by Dr. James Schroeder:
Beware of unintended consequences health care proposals

Allow me to ask you three simple questions: • "Do you want to improve access to health care for children?"

• "Do you want government to have progressively more control over your own health care decisions?"

• "Do you want to pay more taxes than you already do?"

If you answered "yes" to all three questions, then you will probably be in favor of the health care proposals soon to be submitted to the legislature by the governor’s 208 Commission. If, on the other hand, you answered "no" to questions 2 and 3, you might want to educate yourself on the 208 Commission. This group was commissioned to solicit proposals for health care reform and submit a "short list" to the state legislature.

The commission received 31 proposals early this year, narrowed down to 11 semifinalists and then four finalists. Of the four finalists, one calls for universal healthcare, two for massive expansion of Medicaid and at least two entail large tax increases.

Expansion of Medicaid will undoubtedly result in fewer pediatricians accepting Medicaid patients, because Medicaid reimbursement rates to physicians are too low to cover physicians' costs. I would love to hear someone explain how that will improve children's access to quality health care.

I think it is admirable to provide for those who are less fortunate among us. In my practice, I provide a certain percentage of pro bono care for poor families.

Unfortunately, pro bono services cannot be expanded indefinitely. It is just not a model for economic sustainability. Because funding for government charity programs such as Medicaid is finite, expansion of enrollment will lead to limitations on the distribution of services, or rationing.

I urge the public to take the time to learn about this commission. Ask why the only proposal that recommended decreased government intrusion and true free market forces to be introduced into the health care arena was rejected out of hand by the commission. As it stands now, the legislature will not even get a whiff of a free market style proposal. Let your representatives know your wishes in this regard. Do not be drawn in by the heart-rending but fallacious tag line of "helping innocent children."

Beware the unintended consequences of well intended legislation. Otherwise, if you choose to be passive in this matter, accept the end result.

Dr. Schroeder is a pediatric cardiologist, in private practice in Grand Junction since 2004. He is a former chief of the medical staff of Methodist Children's Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, and a former Army pediatrician, and therefore has experienced many different aspects of health care in America. He is also a native of the Grand Valley and a graduate of Palisade High School.