The health system reform bill is now law. While the legal and political wrangling will go on for years, the physicians of Texas remain committed to our patients. We want to keep what's good and fix what's broken in our health care system.
Frankly, we cannot allow our political views or the new law to get in the way of what medical care is all about: physicians caring for our patients. Patients and their doctors must work together to take advantage of this change. We cannot waste this opportunity to improve the access and care we provide to our patients. We also must keep a constant eye out for opportunities to improve the new law.
We have begun a massive new education campaign to help Texas physicians and their practices survive and thrive in this new environment. Our patients depend on that. And lucky for them, no organization is better prepared to help doctors in the post-health-reform jungle than the Texas Medical Association (TMA).
Because of its immense size and scope, the new law contains many provisions that neither we nor our patients fully understand yet. We've asked some of the best health care minds in the state to give us a complete analysis. Right now, here are three good things about the new law soon to happen - and three things the physicians of TMA already know must change.
Three Good Things
1. Prevention is covered. Health plans must cover services like vaccinations and screening tests without charging a copay or deductible. Flu shots, childhood immunizations, and cancer screenings will keep us all in better health. And, in the end, they keep down the cost of medical care.
2. Uninsured Texans with current illnesses are covered. A new insurance pool will allow the uninsured to buy coverage if they have a preexisting condition. It will allow uninsured Texans- even cancer survivors or those with chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure - to get the coverage they need. They will be able to receive care and ensure their health doesn't get even worse.
3. Coverage should be easier to understand. Volumes of legal jargon from the health plans are replaced with summaries and simple labels. No more wondering if certain services or treatments are covered or if you can afford the copay or deductible.
Three Things That Must Change
1. We remain terribly concerned about the Medicare system. Medicare is the largest government health plan we have right now. It is the foundation for many of the changes the new law will bring. The current system is forcing some doctors to make a horrible choice to stop seeing Medicare patients if they want to keep their practices open in order to see any patients at all. We must work together to stop the Medicare meltdown.
2. We need to protect the patient-doctor relationship from outside interference. No government agency and no insurance company should come between patients and their doctors. As the bureaucrats work to implement this new law, we promise to fight to ensure doctors and patients can make health care decisions that are best for our patients.
3. We need to protect Texas' health care liability reforms. In 2003, Texas voters adopted important medical liability reforms for our state. These changes have made it easier for sick and injured Texans to get the care they need. Dozens of rural and medically underserved parts of the state now enjoy the services of high-risk specialists, such as emergency physicians and obstetricians. Physicians who once turned away high-risk patients for fear of a lawsuit are now expanding their practices and offering new, life-saving treatments. We need to make sure nothing in the new law takes away the tremendous progress we've made in Texas.
Since 1853, the physicians of TMA have worked to improve the health of all Texans. Medicine has changed tremendously over those 157 years. The health reform law is just the most recent change, and we now must move forward to ensure that it benefits our patients.
William H. Fleming III, MD
President, Texas Medical Association
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TMA's Medicare Meltdown Action Center