News-Press: Capps Takes Heat On Health Care
Cottage Hospital physicians told plan is a ‘big gamble’
MARCI WORMSER and CHRISTINA KIRCHNER, NEWS-PRESS
Thursday, July 8, 2010
U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, told a roomful of physicians at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Wednesday afternoon that the new health care reform bill she helped pass “is a big gamble” and that legislators “will have to see what needs to be done as time goes on.”
Dr. Noemi Doohan, vice chairwoman of the Family Medicine Department at the hospital, invited Mrs. Capps to speak about the health care reform bill to help clear up any confusion about the legislation and to answer questions from primary care physicians and other health care workers at the hospital.
“It’s one of the most important topics to affect staff and health care,” Dr. Doohan said. “All of us are thinking about it. All of us are talking about it ... There’s a lot that still needs to be worked out.”
The latter was evident during the roundtable discussion, after an anesthesiologist asked Mrs. Capps, who’s a former nurse, how she can be sure the health care reform “is not a fatal move” that will “explode the cost of health care and bring the system down.”
“I don’t have a lot of answers to your questions because we have to see if it works,” Mrs. Capps told him.
The congresswoman, however, assured the doctor that, “If it isn’t working, it can be changed. None of this is set in stone.”
Dr. Roger Dunham, an internist who has an office on Micheltorena Street, told the congresswoman, “It is my opinion that you have been party to one of the most colossal mistakes our government has foisted upon the people of this country with the recent health care bill directed at matters of health insurance rather than health care.”
“For the physicians in this community with practices expanding to beyond 3,000 to 4,000 and sometimes 5,000 patients as the result of declining reimbursement from all sources, how does this health care bill allow these physicians to see the added load of newly insured patients any more effectively than they could previously?” the doctor asked.
“Finally, since there is virtually nobody in the medical school education system interested in going into primary care and more of us are retiring every day, where are you going to find the doctors to take care of these newly insured patients?” he asked.
Mrs. Capps told the internist that more medical students may now decide to specialize in primary care medicine because of the health care insurance reforms.
“This bill reforms health care insurance more than it deals with health care,” she said. “The bill is full of opportunities.”
“We knew health care needed to be reformed,” she continued. “It’s going to take every one of us if we want this to work. The path we were on was unsustainable. We were essentially paying for the medical care of everyone.”
“This is the best (legislation) we could put out at this time,” she told the crowd of about 50 health care workers. “It’s not the best bill. I know that. But we felt we had to pass a bill when we could.”
The current Medicare system, she said, is flawed, and physicians in Santa Barbara County earn less than they should. The health care reform bill, she said, will restructure the payment plan for Medicare.
Another benefit of the reform, she said, is that prevention and wellness will be “rewarded” by insurance companies, which will not charge co-pays for preventative health screenings, starting next year. All new insurance plans that are currently issued, she said, must also provide such a prevention incentive.
“Preventive care will help bring costs down and will produce a healthier workforce,” she said.
“The new health care reform law invests in our next generation of health care providers, places a tremendous emphasis on preventive care and works to ensure we have enough primary care providers to deliver needed preventive services,” Mrs. Capps said. “Just last month, I joined the secretary of health and human services to announce $250 million in grants, scholarships and loan repayment opportunities for individuals seeking careers as primary care physicians, physician assistants and nurses.”
Because there aren’t enough health care providers in certain specialty fields, the reform measure, according to Mrs. Capps, aims to eradicate medical school loans, as well as employment taxes, for physicians who work in under-served areas, and also aims to train more advanced practice nurses. For her part, Dr. Doohan called the reform bill “a good start” and opined that “we’re on a good path.”
Wednesday’s roundtable event was part of a series of talks about the health care reform measure that Mrs. Capps has been delivering to selected groups of her constituents. The events, she said, were held to explain 0xd0 and not debate 0xd0 the new law. The congresswoman said several of the discussions were open to the public, including a recent reform discussion she delivered at the Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria.
A discussion following the roundtable at the hospital Wednesday was followed by a discussion at the SHIFCO Community Room about health care benefits for seniors. All of the congresswoman’s constituents who live in community housing were invited to attend the event, she said.
During the praises and the promoting of the universal health care at the SHIFCO meeting, one voice that was not heard was the Republican challenger, Tom Watson. “If she is going to make a pitch, they (people) should have an alternative view point,” Mr. Watson told the News-Press on Wednesday. “It only seems fair.”
According to Mr. Watson, he heard about the events today at Cottage Hospital and at SHIFCO through people in his campaign and he was not invited to come.
But according to Sharon Siegel, district director of Mrs. Capp’s Santa Barbara office, the places that Mrs. Capps spoke at were those where she was invited. Ms. Siegel said SHIFCO was holding its ice cream social event and invited Mrs. Capps to join them when she came through town.
“Senior citizens have particular concerns when it comes to the new bill,” Mrs. Capps said. “There is a lot of misinformation about the bill. I am available to talk to everyone about the benefits of this (the bill).”
Mrs. Capps expressed the Health Care Reform will be dropping copays and not patients, especially those who are Medicare policy holders. Seniors who already have Medicare are assured by Mrs. Capps that their benefits are protected and, in fact they “will have better benefits,” including more access to doctors under the new bill.
Mrs. Capps expressed that this reform will help “weed out the fraud and the waste in the program” of Medicare. While there are programs that do provide more affordable insurance for the elderly, such as Medicare Advantage, in the end, they are profiting more from the government “There are those within the system now who abuse it, ripping off the government,” Mrs. Capps spoke in front of residents at SHIFCO on Sante Fe Place. “When they rip off the government, they are ripping off taxpayers: you.”
Insurance companies will no longer be able to drop a policy holder is they get sick, and under the health care reform, insurance policies to be unable to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and in 2014, won’t be able to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing condition.
In California, starting in September, there will be an interim program available for adults who have been denied health care coverage because of preexisting conditions, such as cancer. “This program will be cheaper than buying it on the market, but it is just to hold people over until 2014,” she said.
As for the “wild tall tales” that are spreading misinformation about the health care reform Mrs. Capps tells the seniors present that “maybe you’ll be helpful to me, or to those who truthful about the bill.”