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