The ballots have been cast and counted — yes, even in Florida by now — and we know President Barack Obama will return for a second term and the Affordable Care Act is safe from harm … again.
So now what? What to do for private-practice physicians nationwide who've spent nearly two years waiting to see if healthcare reform would become a reality or another political football; played with today and deflated tomorrow as the footnote of a one-term president? Healthcare reform is here, it's here to stay, and as physicians you have a very simple choice: get involved or get left behind.
Now I'm not saying you should all merge with a hospital, go to concierge-based medicine, or make unnecessary drastic changes, but I am saying that perhaps more so than in the last century, healthcare is undergoing a major remodel. And now is the time to be part of it.
Prior to the election, I spoke with Gregory W. Moore, who chairs the international health group for Washington, D.C.-based law firm Clark Hill. Like others, he says it doesn't matter if the nation favored Gov. Mitt Romney or President Obama, the healthcare crisis in both red states and blue states needs attention pronto.
"…There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in healthcare, the likes of which we've never seen," Moore says. "And if you are a physician sitting on the sidelines waiting for the government to tell you what your new rate is going to be in the Medicare program or how you'll be paid in Medicaid, you are really missing the boat. This is not just about Medicare rate cutting; this is a whole new business perspective on healthcare delivery."
And like many patients who feel they are being forced into buying health insurance, many private-practice physicians may feel they are being forced into changes they don't want by those they elected to represent them, powerless to resist. But the exact opposite is true. Now is the time to stand up and be heard as the experts you truly are.
In a recent video interview with Physicians Practice, noted pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson says by no means is the reform law perfect and neither are its authors.
"I think those of us in the medical profession have a significant obligation here to, if we don't like [the Affordable Care Act], come up with something better or come up with ways to make it work," he says. "We really are the advocates for the patients, and there is really no one else who understands what the patients need more so than physicians. If we kind of back off and let the politicians … determine how patients are to be cared for, then we are part of the problem and not the solution; so we need to get much more vocal." (The entire interview can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/Carson-on-ACA.)
With the exception of the handful of members of Congress who are actually physicians, Carson is right: Politicians shouldn't be practicing medicine via a law comprised of more than 2,000 pages. The healthcare reform law isn't a how-to manual, it's a blueprint. And like any blueprint, sometimes things change; but that can't happen unless a skilled eye scrutinizes it and points out possible flaws. Carson is just one of many using his medical expertise to offer that insight to Washington, D.C.
So to recap: Opportunities abound, the future of healthcare is in flux, and your own fate (both personal and professional) is in the balance. Sounds like a good time for physicians to do a little politicking of their own to me.
Keith L. Martin is managing editor of Physicians Practice. Tell him what you think at [email protected]. Unless you say otherwise, we'll assume that we're free to publish your comments in upcoming issues of Physicians Practice, in print and online. Have a "Bigger Picture" opinion of your own? Send it along via e-mail and we'll consider it for a future issue.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Physicians Practice.