The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 13, 2013

Conservatives oppose any health reform

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Bob Jentges (in his Sept. 8 letter) is correct in providing the real name of “The Death Panel” — Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) — though I doubt many understand its role after being so labeled by the opponents of the Affordable Care Act. What he didn’t tell you is that the panel consists of 15 members appointed by the president after consultation with majority and minority leaders of both houses.

The IPAB is charged with finding ways of reducing Medicare costs without affecting coverage or quality. Furthermore, the law allows Congress to override any decision by the panel with a super-majority vote.

Why is this panel so scary when heretofore insurance companies have freely determined what they will and will not pay for, deny coverage for whatever reason, and cap payments without regard to individual needs? (As an example, one of my patients was denied coverage for depression since the term “anxiety” appeared in an old entry in her chart proving that the depression was pre-existing.)

Advancements in medicine and technology have combined to produce amazing treatments and procedures with potential profound effects on health. They come with amazing price tags, too. We all — providers and consumers alike — have a stake in the appropriate use of medicine.

Contrary to popular opinion, the most thorny questions that arise are not money-driven. Rather, they are concerns over the appropriateness of a particular action and the expectations of provider and patient. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Sometimes the best course is a palliative approach, focusing on the patient and not the disease.

Conservatives have opposed any health care reform since Harry Truman proposed a national program in 1945. Even Medicare wasn’t spared. Don’t you find it ironic that now in the 21st century, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” has become a tea party mantra?

But it is refreshing to see the answer to the root question of this debate — is health care a right or a privilege? If you agree that it is a privilege, then you most likely have insurance and you should oppose any tampering with the status quo. Obstruct, obfuscate, lie if you must. After all, you have access to the best health care money can buy. As I see things, it is difficult to separate “health care” from “life,” one of the rights even Jentges agrees we have. It’s time we caught up to the rest of the civilized world in this regard.

Dr. William Shores

St. Peter