We need reforms that put patients first

WASHINGTON – Imagine one day having a lifelong friendship end abruptly. No specific reason, it’s just over. Patients and their doctors are being forced into similar situations as the ramifications of President Obama’s health care law are becoming reality. This is what happens when Washington is dictating to us instead of listening. In fact, it was former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said they needed to pass it so we could find out what’s in it.

Well, unfortunately now we know.

A lot of doctors, like myself, saw this coming. Yet, it’s the patients and families – some of whom doctors have been treating for literally generations – who are suffering the consequences of this ill-advised law that was jammed through Congress on partisan vote.

After three years of preparations and being promised how beneficial this new law would be, Americans have watched it stumble from the start. It began with a website that didn’t work, yet somehow cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. President Obama promised we could keep the health care we liked, yet nearly 5 million families were hit with cancellation notices. Costs are rising and access is getting worse as many hospitals have been shut out from the exchanges. Doctors and our seniors will soon face the consequences of cutting $700 billion from Medicare.

Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning, and these problems cannot be fixed by getting a website to work. Just like a doctor diagnosing a patient – it’s time for Washington to listen to those being hurt by this new law.

We can and must do better than Obamacare, and the fix needs to be focused on some common sense, patient-centered reforms. Through my experience listening to people, treating patients, and running a practice, I know these reforms would help.

My “prescriptions” are based on solving real life issues that many in Northern Michigan are currently facing. Like Michael from Wallace, who told me, “since Obamacare came into play my costs for healthcare have gone up nearly $600/mo on premiums and out of pocket has more than doubled.”

We can shop for and purchase our car insurance from different places or states, so why can’t we purchase of health insurance across state lines? Allowing insurance to be sold across state lines would enable customers to shop around and find the best plans for their families or employees.

A truly competitive marketplace, where insurance companies would be able to offer a variety of products to meet your needs and competition to attract new policyholders, would help keep prices low.

Edward from Fife Lake, explained to me, “we are happy with our coverage and just want the government to leave us alone. The president repeatedly promised we could keep our current insurance if we were happy with it.”

I believe health insurance needs to be portable. Your health coverage should stick with you, regardless of where you work or who pays for it. If you change your job or lose your job, you should be able to take that policy with you, so your health care coverage would not be interrupted.

I’ve also heard from Thomas in Williamsburg, who told me “my wife and I have been informed that our Ins. is going to go up by no less than 40%…”

My prescription would expand Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and provides fairer tax treatment of premiums for all. Let’s give families more flexibility and provide them the same tax benefit for individuals that employers currently enjoy so they can save for their health care costs.

Having cared for patients, I don’t want to see anyone slip through the cracks. I want to ensure high-risk patients and those with pre-existing conditions can get the coverage they need.

We do that by developing robust pooling plans. In addition, parents should continue to be able to be allowed to keep their kids on their health care coverage until they are twenty-six-years old.

These are common sense prescriptions we can take right now that would improve access, empower patients, rein in costs, allow for portability and put patients, families and doctors back in control of their health care decisions. Let’s take Washington out of that role, because what we’ve seen so far from the president’s health care law that Washington is only making things worse.

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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon from Iron River and is serving in his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.