Doctors' group calls for 'radical' change in health care systemEven the authors of a resolution passed by a Northwestern Wisconsin medical group say it’s extreme.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Even the authors of a resolution passed by a Northwestern Wisconsin medical group say it’s extreme.
“It’s crazy radical,” said Dr. Hans Rechsteiner, a general surgeon in Spooner who is president of the Tri-County Medical Society. “Some of the things we are recommending are radical to the point of being ridiculous.”
Nonetheless, the medical society representing Barron, Burnett and Washburn counties — with 75 dues-paying members — says America’s health-care system requires radical surgery.
“Health care costs in the U.S. are exceedingly high compared to other countries, and … measurements of quality of care, such as longevity or infant mortality, have been documented to be not as good as in other leading countries,” begins the preamble to the resolution, which was approved on Tuesday.
The eight-point resolution begins by calling for nationwide tort reform, a common theme among physician groups.
Then it hits less familiar territory. Among other recommendations:
The latter is intended to encourage patients to shop around when seeking medical procedures, said Rechsteiner, 62, in a telephone interview.
For example, Rechsteiner explained, if a knee replacement costs $35,000 at one facility and $50,000 at another and the patient’s deductible is $1,000 regardless, the patient has no reason to seek the less expensive option. If the patient’s share were a percentage of the total cost, she would have an incentive to find the facility that offers to do it for less.
“We’ve been lazy,” Rechsteiner said. “We don’t really look for the information.”
The doctors had been working on their resolution for a year, Rechsteiner said, spurred by seeing a patient bill that “absolutely flabbergasted us.”
The Affordable Care Act is well-intentioned, he said, but barely addresses such high costs. He cited a story in Monday’s New York Times that reported bills for $1,696 to close a cut on a toddler’s forehead and $2,229 for three stitches in a woman’s knee.
The act, commonly known as Obamacare, did what it could given the forces arrayed against reform, Rechsteiner said.
“The lobbies for the insurance industry and for the health care industry and for the doctors — they’re huge,” he said. “They’re the biggest lobbies there are. So they couldn’t write anything into the law that says the big clinics are going to have a public services commission to review their profit levels.”
But in many areas, clinics have “coalesced themselves into mega groups,” and in effect have unregulated monopolies, he said. “There’s nobody to sit on them and say you can’t gouge.”
The doctors don’t expect their resolution to fly with larger groups such as the Wisconsin Medical Society or the American Medical Association, Rechsteiner said. Even a couple of doctors in their group have written emails disassociating themselves with the resolution, he said.
Neither the Wisconsin Medical Society nor the Wisconsin Hospital Association immediately responded to requests for comments on Thursday.
What the Northwestern Wisconsin doctors hope is to gain media attention and begin a movement to shame the industry into regulating itself, Rechsteiner said.
“This whole resolution is kind of intended as a threat,” Rechsteiner said in outlining the hoped-for results. “No one will take this seriously. But the big guys will read it, and … they’re going to feel guilt, and they’re going to feel worried that some of these things could happen, and they’re going to make internal changes and improve the system on their own.”