President of state medical association says members are divided over health-care reformThe president of the South Dakota State Medical Association said it’s too early to know the exact effects of federal health-care legislation, but he knows that many physicians in the state are concerned about government interference that could come as a result of its passage.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
The president of the South Dakota State Medical Association said it’s too early to know the exact effects of federal health-care legislation, but he knows that many physicians in the state are concerned about government interference that could come as a result of its passage.
“There is a fairly overwhelming consensus that people are really scared about government getting into health care more than it already has,” said Dr. Tom Huber, a family physician from Pierre and president of the SDSMA. “Dealing with the federal government is not always easy. There’s a lot of concern about whether or not we as physicians are going to be able to still act in the best interest of our patients.”
Huber was in Mitchell recently for a meeting with medical professionals from 13 SDSMA districts across the state when he granted an interview to The Daily Republic. President Barack Obama signed the health-care reform legislation into law last month.
While the American Medical Association has supported the health-care legislation, the SDSMA has not issued an official opinion. Huber said the lack of an official endorsement or rejection is because of divided opinions within the state organization.
“It makes no sense on an issue that has some division within the ranks to take a position,” Huber said.
Personally, Huber said he’s also concerned about the potential costs of the new health-care legislation. However, he’s holding back a complete opinion until he sees the legislation in action.
“I’m of the belief that we’re really not going to know if it’s good or bad until we do it,” Huber said. “Then, we’re going to have to be flexible enough to make adjustments if we find out we’re going down the wrong way.”
A more immediate concern for Huber is the tumultuous state of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, a formula created and used by the federal government to determine Medicare payments.
Congress has continually voted to delay a 21.2 percent Medicare pay-cut scheduled for physicians. The most recent delay moves the cut to June 1.
Until then, Huber said there will be a “full court press” to fix the SGR, or many Medicare patients could end up unable to obtain service because of cost concerns on the part of physicians.
“What you’ve seen around the country because of this problem with Medicare reimbursement is clinics that are saying, ‘We are no longer going to take new Medicare patients,’ ” Huber said. “This thing’s going to get in the way of taking care of our patients.”
“We’re not talking about doctors buying more Mercedes Benzes,” Huber added.
“This is about a physician’s ability to have a sustainable practice that allows them to take on these kinds of patients.”