Putting patients first - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Putting patients first

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Posted: Saturday, September 27, 2008 8:44 pm | Updated: 10:30 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

 Health care reform has returned to the front burner of today’s political conversation, as it should. The cost of health care and health insurance continues to rise, making it more and more difficult for the average person to afford.

Candidates for national office will promise to cure the problem. But they have been saying that for years. Gridlock in Washington will continue to stop any meaningful health care reform from passing through Congress.

The various special interest groups — on all sides of the issue — converge on the big target called Congress. The politicians get pulled in so many directions that, at the end of the day, little ever changes.

States have grown impatient with federal inaction. Many states have enacted or are considering health care reform measures that would render federal reform unnecessary. But, as is often the case, many of these reforms have had the unintended consequence of restricting the peoples’ right to make their own health care and health insurance choices.

Right here in Arizona, some groups advocate very radical and drastic reforms. For example, this past session, the Legislature considered a bill that would have outlawed all private insurance in Arizona, and would have required everyone not presently on Medicare to be enrolled in a state health care program — essentially enrolling all of us in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

Under the proposal, a state health commission would determine what kinds of services and medications would be available and even whether a hospital can add a new CT scanner or MRI machine. The law would prohibit people from paying directly for any health care service already offered by the state health plan. If they want faster service or a different doctor than the one in the plan, they would have to leave the state.

That bill didn’t pass — yet.

But as it becomes more and more clear that health care reform is most likely to happen in the states, not in Washington, it becomes ever more important for Arizonans to take steps to assure that their rights to make their own health care choices and decisions are preserved.

Proposition 101, “The Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” will amend the Arizona constitution to guarantee that no law shall be passed which restricts a person’s freedom of choice of private health care plans or systems. Nor shall any law pass that prevents a person from directly paying for any lawful medical service. And laws can’t be passed that find ways around this, by imposing, for example, penalties or fines for choosing or declining to participate in a particular health insurance plan.

Prop. 101 will guarantee that no piece of legislation can prevent you from paying for an alternative form of health care, if that is what you desire. No law can stop you from paying for additional professional opinions, or paying for tests that are not “authorized’ by a health plan, or obtaining a therapy that is not considered “mainstream.” Prop. 101 respects your precious right as an adult to decide for yourself about such matters.

Prop. 101 allows the Legislature to pass subsidies to assist people in paying for health care. It does nothing to prevent the expansion of “KidsCare” or AHCCCS. It is absolutely not intended — and not able — to affect public health care systems or plans such as AHCCCS and Medicare. Prop. 101 protects only private health care decisions.

Some advocates of government-controlled or state-mandated health care are trying to scare the public into believing that Prop. 101 could affect AHCCCS or other publicly funded and administered health care programs.

Don’t listen to them. Listen to the constitutional legal experts who adamantly affirm that Prop. 101 has no affect on AHCCCS or other public health care programs whatsoever.

Prop. 101 is not “for” or “against” universal health care. Prop. 101 is not a “health care reform” measure. Prop. 101 is concerned with just one goal: protecting our right to make our own health care decisions.

Every one of us will be a patient some day. This fact is the great equalizer. Prop. 101 will assure us, that no matter how health care is eventually reformed, none of us will ever be denied the right to choose the doctor, or the test, or the medicine, or the treatment we need and desire.

Dr. Jeffrey Singer practices general surgery in the Phoenix area and is treasurer of Medical Choice for Arizona, sponsors of Proposition 101.

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