Written by Keith J. Lehman, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.
August 06, 2009
Family Physician, Archbold, Ohio
President, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians
Comprehensive healthcare reform is a political and social challenge that has escaped this country for more than 30 years. This year, divergent interests are coming together to finally fix our healthcare system. There are proposals in Congress right now that would provide high quality, affordable healthcare and give people the choice of keeping their current insurance plan and primary care physician.
As a family physician, I see the effects of our broken healthcare system every day. It is never easy to treat patients who are uninsured because they cannot afford coverage or are denied coverage due to age or a pre-existing condition. I am tired of seeing my patients struggle paying for the healthcare they need. Healthcare reform cannot come soon enough.
Let’s face it. Access to healthcare is precarious.
But, it need not be. Meaningful and sustainable healthcare reform is possible if Congress passes legislation that gives everyone in the United States access to a patient-centered medical home, where their primary care physician will ensure they get the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.
What does it take to make this happen? First, we need legislation that really covers everyone, requiring insurance companies to sell plans to all comers, regardless of family history, pre-existing conditions, and to guarantee that patients can renew their coverage after they have become sick.
Second, legislation also needs to ensure that once people have insurance, they also have access to a primary care physician. The problem, however, is a growing shortage of primary care physicians to meet that need. The reformed system must value primary care if we want medical students to choose careers as primary care physicians. We need primary care physicians to keep people healthy, provide early treatment for the most common health problems and coordinate comprehensive and seamless care when subspecialty attention is needed.
The good news: We have a vehicle that can make all these improvements happen. It is called the Affordable Health Choices Act being debated in the U.S. Senate. This proposal would ensure affordable health coverage for everyone and encourage the primary care that people need. Making this a reality depends on letting our senators know we support these efforts. Unless we voice our support, we are likely to continue criticizing, pondering and worrying about healthcare for years to come.
It is time to stop playing politics and solve the healthcare crisis. We must find a uniquely American solution that controls skyrocketing healthcare costs and gives our patients peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare.