Put Patients First When Reforming Health Care

To the Honorable Members of the Texas Delegation to the U.S. Congress:

With “health system reform” on the tips of just about everyone’s lips right now, we are excited to be here on Capitol Hill with you and your staff. On behalf of the nearly 44,000 physician and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association, we come with many hopes and concerns, but with one overriding message: Please keep our patients at the forefront of your minds as you work through this reform debate.

Everyone agrees there is no way we have the money or the physician workforce to continue to care for an aging population afflicted with chronic disease brought on by unhealthy lifestyles. The status quo is not acceptable. President Obama says he wants to overhaul our health care system by the end of the year. Texas Medical Association is ready for that. We are engaged and on the job. We see this as an opportunity for real improvement. But we need your help. Please work with us and give us a seat at the table. Please hear what we say about how various reform ideas will affect our patients and the medical care they need. Let’s be certain that we share the responsibility for financing this effort among everyone involved.

I will tell you up front that we are beholden to a special interest group: our patients. Our goal, as physicians, is to make patient care better.

We are armed with a set of guidelines with which we will vet and examine and measure every idea that comes forward. Our patient-centered guidelines are grounded in the principles of competition and choice, sound science, and compassion. Surely we must reduce the cost of health care in this country. But just as surely, we cannot do that by reducing our patients’ access to health care or compromising the quality of care they receive.

I am enclosing some documents that reflect TMA’s position on several key issues that we have discussed with you in recent years. Medicare financing, insurance company accountability, physician workforce and training, responsible physician ownership of health care facilities, and the safe scope of practice of nonphysician practitioners are still very important to us. They undoubtedly will be addressed, in some fashion, in any comprehensive health reform plan.

As the months go by, we invite you to take advantage of Texas physicians’ knowledge, expertise, and real-world experience. Please call us. We’ll be happy to share our views of others’ reform plans … or to help you devise proposals of your own.

Working together in these momentous times, I am confident we can improve the health of all Texans.

Sincerely,

Josie R. Williams, MD
President


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