Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Duo Tout Slower Health Care Reform Pace

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Duo Tout Slower Health Care Reform Pace

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A pair of physicians, in Oklahoma City to counter Hillary Rodham Clinton's highly visible saber-rattling trip last month, Thursday urged Congress to slow down and to fully consider ramifications of health care reform before taking action.

America is not ready for the additional strain on the system and the attendant skyrocketing costs when universal coverage is installed, the pair said Thursday during a wide-ranging interview with The Journal Record.

"We don't want to railroad something through, then find out that in 10 or 20 years we've doubled our national deficit," said Dr. Joseph Stephen Alpert, a cardiologist at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson. "Health care is 15 percent of our gross domestic product, and we should be careful about tampering with it. If, say, automotive production was 15 percent of our gross domestic product, we'd think twice about pushing a steam locomotive through to hurry and get something done."

While both Alpert and Dr. W. Bruce Fye _ a cardiologist at Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wis., and a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison _ agreed that costs have gotten out of control, they say the rush to pass reform has become too politicized.

They also said that the headlong rush that's stampeding Congress into action probably will result in a half-measure that causes more problems than it solves.

"America doesn't want a bill that passes the Senate 50 to 51," Alpert said. "Instead, America wants a bill that both sides want and that the American people want.

"We should have more discussions among the professionals, the physicians, the health care providers, the third-party payers, the regulators and the politicians before coming up with a solution."

Reports from Washington Thursday appeared as though the U.S. Senate was heeding the advice of the two doctors. Senators broke for vacation, leaving a health care reform bill far from ready from floor consideration. The Senate's action makes it seem less likely that health care reform will move through Congress this year.

But the rush for changes already has tempered some health care delivery and cost reforms, Fye said.

"We're seeing people trying to position themselves to take full advantage of any reform bill which passes," he said.

Technology also is being utilized more as a way to cut costs, especially in rural areas. Wisconsin has a telemedicine network similar to Oklahoma's where physicians in rural areas are able to transmit test results in real time to specialists at metropolitan medical centers for diagnosis.

"This is a real savings in cost and in time as well as an improved treatment for patients," Fye said.

Fye and Alpert are part of a 12-man task force of the American College of Cardiologists trying to drum up support for a more moderate approach to health care reform. The task force is touring select cities to "bring their message and allow people to look at the entire picture," said Lynnette Moten, who is handling public relations for the tour.

Both the physicians are to return to their homes today, she said.

Neither man would endorse or criticize any specific plan because "no one knows exactly what's out there at the moment. …

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