Healthcare Reform: Perspective from Indiana Physicians - Alexander Stemer, MD, President & CEO of Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana, comments on healthcare reform legislation and what it will mean for physicians and patients in Indiana and across the country.
In March of this year, The House of Representatives - after months of discussion and debate - passed a sweeping $940 billion healthcare reform bill into law. Some call this legislation historical, some call it controversial, but one thing everyone agrees on is that it will dramatically change the United States healthcare system. Alexander Stemer, MD (www.medspecindiana.com/), is one of the Indiana physicians questioning whether or not these changes are actually an improvement.
Diminished Quality of Care
Dr. Stemer points out that, in his region, most residents currently seem to enjoy top quality healthcare. During his three-decade medical career in Northwest Indiana, the availability and quality of medical care has improved dramatically. The number of doctors tripled, four new hospitals were built, and older hospitals were renovated. In 1977, vital services like cancer treatment, open heart surgery, cardiac rehabilitation and kidney dialysis were unavailable in most local hospitals. Today, these services are plentiful. He fears that the new system may jeopardize all of the progress that has been made in healthcare for Indiana and the rest of the country.
Dr. Stemer believes that, while the lives of some will be improved, many people will see a decline in the quality of care they receive. "In Lake County, Indiana, it is estimated that the new insurance mandate, plus expansion of Medicaid, will give about 75,000 people paid health coverage," explains Dr. Stemer. "This will create an instant shortage of 15-30 primary care doctors. As a result, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will have an expanded role. The pent-up demand of the newly-covered population will consume same-day appointments with primary care doctors, as well as limited scheduled appointments with vital specialists. Everyone should expect longer waiting times."
Increased Costs to Patients
While the costs of providing medical care have gone up dramatically, fees doctors are paid for office services have not gone up in years. Secretary Sebelius of the United States Department of Health and Human Services has predicted these rates will remain unchanged for another 10 years. Dr. Stemer believes that, as a result, the best and busiest physicians will be forced to charge for services such as returning phone calls, calling in prescriptions, and patient education.
He also foresees an increase in prescription drug costs for most Americans, stating that "Although the 'doughnut hole' for Medicare patients will be closed, saving older people money on medications, everybody else will actually pay more because the federal government has agreed not to negotiate drug prices with drug companies."
In addition, Dr. Stemer cautions that the cost of health insurance will rise for many. "Removing restrictions on pre-existing conditions will cause non-smokers to pay for the cancers of smokers, non-alcoholics to pay for the liver transplants of alcoholics, and thin people pay for the diseases of obese people. With car insurance, good drivers pay less than bad drivers, but this is not the case with the new health insurance. People who could not get insurance before will be happier, but people who had insurance will suffer."
Dr. Stemer, like most physicians, supports providing healthcare to all Americans. Unfortunately, the new legislation will increase costs and make it more difficult for patients who currently have insurance to receive care.
Dr. Alexander Stemer (www.medspecindiana.com) is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease, and is the President and CEO of Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana. He completed medical school at the University of Illinois School of Medicine, and both his residency and fellowship at the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL. He founded Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana with the vision of providing university-level healthcare to Northwest Indiana.
Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana is a family of Indiana physicians and surgeons. This unique health care organization is comprised of highly trained primary care and specialty care physicians and surgeons whose sense of compassion is as highly regarded as their expertise. Providing the highest quality healthcare to residents of Northwest Indiana since 1978, Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana strives to bring university level medical care to the community setting. No matter where you live in Northwest Indiana, there's a Medical Specialist provider nearby. If you would like to learn more about healthcare in Indiana, or schedule an appointment at one of our centers, please contact us online at www.medspecindiana.com or call 219-934-2495 for more information.
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