A prescription to reform our health care system
For nearly three decades, I practiced medicine in North Texas. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I started to see politicians putting forward health care schemes that would result in drastic changes to my clinical practice and negatively affect all American patients. I came to Congress to work on policies that would help doctors, like me, and patients by reforming a health care system that was not working. The passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was about as bad of a job as Congress could have done to “fix” these policies.
Through the expansion of the “Stark Law” in the ACA, physicians are blocked from owning hospitals just because of the two letters behind their names. Physician-owned hospitals provide quality, efficient, and cost-effective care. Patient care begins and ends with doctors, and no one is more aware of this fact than physicians themselves. We must remove burdensome restrictions so that hospitals are able to provide quality care at a lower cost for patients in Texas and around the country. For this reason, I introduced H.R. 977, the Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act, with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to restore doctors’ freedom to innovate and serve their patients.
This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will repeal sections 6001 and 10601 of the ACA which place limitations on allowing physician-owned hospitals to expand or be established. Essentially, this legislation will reverse the effects of the ACA that have led to hospital consolidation, causing insurance premiums and health care consumer costs to rise.
In a recent CNN op-ed, Brian J. Miller, M.D. advocated in support of a solution like H.R. 977. Dr. Miller explained that “Policymakers could drive down hospital costs by repealing the ban on physician-owned hospitals from participating in the Medicare program, paving the way for physicians to open both new community hospitals and develop more specialty hospitals.” Dr. Miller added, “By lifting the physician self-referral ban in managed Medicare or managed Medicaid settings that have checks and balances to avoid waste and abuse, physician-owned and operated enterprises would be in a position to compete with corporate enterprises.”
I do not believe the government should hinder a doctor’s ability to act in their patient’s best interest. In fact, I wish the concept of government dictating a physician’s practice and decisions was unthinkable.
It is time to let doctors be doctors again. Quality health care comes from physicians, not government bureaucrats. Patients and physicians should be put back in charge of our health care system, and the government should stop putting unnecessary red tape that blocks physicians from offering the best quality care.
Michael Burgess represents the 26th District of Texas and is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
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