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Let’s get realistic about curing our health care system

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As a doctor, I ran for Congress because I have seen first-hand how ObamaCare has wreaked havoc on our health care system and caused premiums, deductibles and co-pays to skyrocket.

There are many commonsense reforms we can enact to lower costs and make care more affordable to patients – reforms that both parties can support.

{mosads}After spending two months in office, however, it has become apparent that the leaders of the Democratic Party have no interest in a constructive discussion about how to improve our health care system.

Instead, Democratic presidential candidates have begun their race to the left, and they have abandoned any realistic health care positions back at the starting line. For Democrats, the needs of our patients have been replaced by internal polling data from Iowa and New Hampshire as the drivers of healthcare policy.  

This type of thinking has spread to House Democrats as well, who last week unveiled one of the most extreme Medicare for All plans yet.

The American people, on the other hand, are too smart for pie in the sky ideas like single payer health care. When presented with the facts surrounding Medicare for All, less than 40 percent of Americans support it.

It’s important that all members of Congress continue to challenge the smoke and mirrors proposals Democrats are making and bring the truth to light. As a doctor, I feel I have a special responsibility to do so. So, what are the facts surrounding Medicare for All?

First off, Medicare for All would cost around $32 trillion over the next decade, which would mean massive tax increases on hardworking Americans to fund the program. And with spending for the current Medicare program estimated to rise to $45 trillion over the next ten years, we are going have enough challenges keeping the promises that we’ve already made without asking taxpayers to pony up more of their hard earned money to do so.

Medicare for All would also mean more formularies for services and prescription drugs, which would mean less access to treatment and less innovation in medicine.

Even though Medicare for All relies on unrealistic and false promises, it is all we seem to hear about these days. But what about all the practical solutions that are getting drowned out?

Last week I co-sponsored legislation to permanently repeal the 2.3 percent medical device tax that was implemented because of ObamaCare. The cost of this levy was passed down to patients, and according to the Tax Foundation, it lowered health care research and development spending by $34 million in one year alone and was responsible for the loss of approximately 21,800 jobs from 2013 to 2015. Eliminating this misguided tax once and for all has bipartisan support, but we will only be able to do so if we continue to put a spotlight on the issue.

Other bipartisan proposals that will allow the doctor-patient relationship to be at the center of patient care should also receive more attention.

Right now, many insurance companies are forcing patients to see a certain doctor before they can be authorized to see a second doctor even if that second doctor is the only one they need. We need to pass pre-authorization reform legislation to cut out this unnecessary requirement and allow patients to save on co-pay costs and wasted visits.

Ever need to take a formulary drug before being able to get access to the one you truly require? Having treated patients myself, it has always struck me as ridiculous that I had to initially prescribe a less effective medication and force people to suffer longer at a higher cost due to outdated regulations. Step-therapy reform legislation addressing this issue is necessary as well.

These are the initiatives that should be dominating the discussion on health care. These are the fixes that will lower costs for all Americans and that lawmakers in both parties are open to supporting.

Using health care as some sort of political football to divide the country is not going to help patients, working on commonsense compromises will.

As a physician, I always stress to my patients that only the treatment options that have a realistic chance at succeeding should be used. Democrats should heed that same advice in this case, and I look forward to partnering with them if they change their minds and get serious about curing our broken health care system.

Dr. John Joyce is a freshman congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 13th District. Prior to his election he ran a medical practice in Altoona, Pa., for over 25 years

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