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Barrasso: ObamaCare Disrupts Delicate Relationship Between Patient And Doctor


December 11, 2013


ObamaCare Disrupts Delicate Relationship Between Patient And Doctor
By Sen. John Barrasso, M.D.
Investor’s Business Daily
December 11, 2013

A central architect of the president's health care law admitted this week that the often repeated promise that "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" simply isn't true.

Instead, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel explained that if you like your doctor, you will simply need to pay more to keep your doctor.

As a physician, I know firsthand how this will hurt many Americans.

Families look to doctors as trusted friends, confidants and counselors and turn to them for advice in making life-and-death decisions.

In Wyoming, patients have included me in graduations, weddings, and asked me to serve as a pallbearer. They've asked me to pray with them, referee family disputes, and provide reassurance when a doctor they did not know was called in to consult.

Norman Rockwell's painting "Doctor and Doll" tells the story. A little girl holds up her doll as the trusted family doctor listens to it with his stethoscope. The caring, compassionate physician takes the time to reassure a concerned little girl.

The doctor-patient relationship is a very special bond. It requires faith and trust for a patient to allow me to cut into their body to remove a tumor, replace a worn-out joint, fix a broken bone, repair a torn ligament and, above all else, to do no harm.

The president knew of the special relationship between people and their doctors. That's why, when he was trying to gain support for his health care law, he made a clear and simple promise to the American people. The president said, "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period."

Now people across the country are finding they can't keep their doctor.

The same law that has caused millions of Americans to lose the health insurance that worked for them is now causing people to lose their doctors.

People shopping for insurance on government exchanges are being forced to purchase insurance for things they don't want, don't need or will never use.

To keep costs down, many of these policies limit the doctors and hospitals that patients can use. Some of the nation's premier hospitals — including the Mayo Clinic and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — are excluded from many insurance networks.

Some of the best children's hospitals in the country are also excluded from the exchanges. This means a child with cancer may lose access to his or her doctor and the specialty hospital because of this law.

In New Hampshire, 10 of the state's 26 hospitals are excluded from the only carrier offering insurance in the exchange. The head of the medical staff at one of the excluded hospitals learned her plan does not even let her to seek treatment at her own hospital.

The situation could be equally bad for seniors on Medicare. Thousands of doctors caring for seniors on Medicare Advantage have been dropped from their networks. Those Medicare patients will now be challenged with finding a new doctor to take care of them.

The president's health care law is making it harder for doctors as well as patients. Doctors know their patients' health history, their families and their lives. Doctors value the personal relationship as much as the patient does.

That's why people become doctors in the first place — to take care of their patients.

Even if someone is able to keep their doctor, they won't necessarily be able to spend as much time with them as they might like. That's because nearly two-thirds of doctors expect to spend more time on paperwork under the requirements of the new law.

This is not at all what the president promised. People all across America put their faith and trust in Barack Obama when they elected him president.

It's the same kind of faith and trust they have in their doctor. When patients lose trust in their doctor — or citizens in their president — it is extremely difficult to regain.

I continue to hear from my patients in Wyoming. They have always had my home phone number. They are anxious and angry. They know what they wanted from health care reform: access to quality, affordable care.

That's not what they got with this law. Now, many face losing the doctor who has always been there for them.

If President Obama wants to regain the trust of the American people, he will sit down with Republicans to deliver reforms that will help all Americans and fully protect the doctor-patient relationship.

After all, President Obama has his own doctor at the White House who is dedicated to his care. I'm sure he values that relationship just as much as other Americans value their relationship with their doctor.

Barrasso, a physician, is the Republican junior senator from Wyoming.

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December 2013 News and Op-Eds

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