What this doctor would tell Obama

I was encouraged, though, when President Obama invited members of Congress to the White House to discuss our concerns with the current bills in Congress “line-by-line,” and gladly accepted the invitation. Should the meeting occur, and I am hopeful it will, there are three areas of reform I would like to discuss with President Obama that I believe would achieve many of our shared goals.

First, as a doctor, I understand the burden that practicing defensive medicine places on doctors. I am guilty myself of doing this to protect against the potential of unnecessary lawsuits, and firmly believe medical liability must be a part of healthcare reform. If we can’t give doctors some protections, then how can we ask them to be our partners in this effort?

Medical professionals — doctors and nurses, to name a few — enter their professions to help people, and we need to remove the barriers that currently exist between them and their patients.

A second barrier we should eliminate is the ability of health insurance companies to deny coverage to patients because of a pre-existing condition. There are millions of Americans who want and need health insurance coverage but are denied, and Congress can act now to end this. Some states have successful safety nets that would serve as a good model for reform.

When we give millions of new Americans health insurance coverage, we must ensure that there are enough doctors and nurses to care for them. Ensuring a strong medical workforce — now and for the future — is the third area of reform. Not only will we need more doctors and nurses to care for America’s patients, but we will need these caregivers in medically underserved professions and communities.

These are areas where I believe real healthcare reform can be achieved, and where urgent reform is needed and would find broad bipartisan support in Washington and across the country.

Our country’s healthcare system currently serves up healthcare to millions of Americans who are very satisfied with what they have. On the other hand, millions are denied care or treatment or forced to pay thousands in out of pocket costs.

These Americans want reform.

However, Americans don’t want a four-inch-thick bill written by a handful of individuals behind closed doors, read by very few members, and passed quickly without adequate debate. They have made this clear by coming out and having their voices heard all across the country during the August recess. This is not un-American or special-interest obstructionism; it is democracy, and it is healthy.

Furthermore, to say that Republicans have no ideas, but rather oppose any reforms and defend the status quo, is untrue. I have found the Democratic Party to be the “Party of No.” Despite my numerous offers to the president, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and others, to be part of the process and offer legitimate ideas, I have been repeatedly rebuffed.

President Obama should listen to those from all sides of the debate — the cancer patient who was forced to dip into his retirement to pay for radiation; the diabetic who lost her employer-sponsored coverage and cannot find an insurer to cover her; the doctor forced to order extra tests for fear of a lawsuit; and the self-employed businessman who has a Health Savings Account for him and his family and likes it.

And I am hopeful that President Obama will listen to this member of Congress, who practiced medicine in North Texas for 25 years, has experienced the strengths and shortcomings of our country’s healthcare system, and has ideas of ways to keep what works and fix what’s broken. I have accepted the president’s invitation to discuss my concerns and ideas at the White House, and look forward to the meeting.

Burgess is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.