by Matt McCord, M.D.
(reprint with permission from The Detroit News)
As a practicing doctor and health care administrator, I witness the shortcomings of the delivery of health care every day.
While we arguably have the most sophisticated and advanced medical care in the world, our delivery of that care leaves much to be desired.
Just about everyone has a personal story about delayed treatments, care denials, or worse, bankruptcies, from lack of insurance. I would argue that this is because the middlemen (the government, insurers and hospitals) have controlled this industry for decades and the two most important participants in the delivery of health care, patients and doctors, have been marginalized and commoditized to the periphery.
Would Americans buy a car designed by GEICO? Then why do we allow these middlemen to be our proxies for our health care?
Ultimately, it is our money and health that is at stake.
Obamacare takes this delegated authority and destroys the doctor-patient relationship. Since the passage of this legislation in March of 2010, hospitals and health systems have been on a buying spree, purchasing doctor practices. Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruitment firm, now estimates that within two years over 75 percent of doctors in America will be owned by these middlemen. According to the Wall Street Journal this month, this rampant consolidation has finally drawn the attention of state attorneys general on anti-trust grounds. Many believe that this will drive up the cost of care. Even more concerning is the fact that doctors are no longer the agents of patients but instead company employees working on volume and loss prevention. Americans have thus lost advocates for their care and no one takes ownership of the patient. This will be painfully obvious to Americans seeking care in 2014.
Americans need to protect themselves. If we cannot reverse course on this legislation, we will need leverage to protect our self-interests. That leverage comes from controlling where our health care dollars go. Americans should demand Health Savings Accounts (like an IRA for health care), or, at minimum, vouchers or “premium support” for care that will give us some control and ensure that the industry responds to our individual needs.
Donald Berwick, the former head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services got it right when he said, “At some point the public will realize that it’s all their money.”
Matt McCord, M.D., is a practicing anesthesiologist, clinical instructor and health care administrator in Ann Arbor. He is the Secretary for the Michigan Chapter of Docs4PatientCare, a national nonpartisan grassroots doctor organization seeking to repeal Obamacare.