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ACP President Speaks at News Conference with Senators about Health Care Reform

Senate Press Conference
Physicians for Health Reform
July 30, 2009
Joseph W. Stubbs, MD, FACP
American College of Physicians

I’m Joe Stubbs, president of the American College of the Physicians. Let me tell you about my “day job.”

I spend my time taking care of patients in a general internal medicine practice in rural Albany, Georgia, as I have done for the past 30 years. I take enormous professional pride and satisfaction in keeping my patients healthy, helping to heal them, and providing comfort and relief when they are nearing the end of life.

ACP President Joseph Stubbs, MD, FACP; AAFP Board Chair Jim King, M.D.; Senator Harry Reid; and Senator Charles Schumer address reporters about health care reform.

ACP President Joseph Stubbs, MD, FACP; AAFP Board Chair Jim King, M.D.; Senator Harry Reid; and Senator Charles Schumer address reporters about health care reform.

I also share the frustrations with a health care system that often is stacked against patients and their doctors. Too many of my patients can’t find affordable health insurance because they have a “pre-existing condition” -- as the insurance companies like to call it. Some of them have lost their jobs—and their insurance -- during these economic hard-times. Rising premiums and out-of-pocket expenses have caused some to forego needed preventive services and products and others to be brought to the brink of bankruptcy. At the same time, patients and doctors alike are drowning in a sea of red tape, rules and regulations we cannot understand.

We physicians struggle to provide our patients with the best care possible, even as payment systems reward the wrong kind of care: rushed, volume-based, and episodic care over spending time with patients on prevention and care coordination. Regrettably, few young physicians are choosing internal medicine or other primary care fields, and as a result, we are facing a shortage of tens of thousands of primary care physicians.

All of these are barriers to our ability to provide our patients with the care they need. All of these are barriers that can be overcome by health reform legislation.

We need Congress to enact reforms to provide all Americans with affordable health insurance coverage, and a delivery system to meet their health care needs.

We need to change the rules so that health plans compete based on innovative practices to improve patient care, not on cherry-picking out the young and healthy.

We need workforce and payment policies to encourage physicians to go into internal medicine, family medicine, and geriatrics.

We need payment and delivery system reforms to support prevention, care coordination and the doctor-patient relationship.

We can and should debate how best to achieve these goals, but debate must not become an excuse for delay. Change is never easy, but change we want, change in health care does not mean Socialized medicine or rationed care. Change in health care can mean securing a patient’s freedom to choose their physician and plan; can mean better quality and more coordinated care; can mean less financial burden on our citizens; and change can mean a better stronger doctor patient relationship. My patients will experience irreparable harm if we leave it to a future Congress to pick up the pieces of our currently broken health care system.

My patients in Albany, Georgia are counting on members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to work with President Obama to achieve comprehensive and meaningful health care reform. We cannot—we must not—let them down.

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