VOL. 125 | NO. 56 | Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Local Reaction Mixed on Health Care Vote
By Tom Wilemon
Doctors and business groups have divided viewpoints about the health care reform bill that passed a major hurdle Sunday in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Three Democratic congressmen from Tennessee – Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper and Bart Gordon – voted with the majority. The bill passed 219-212.
The American Medical Association praised the vote, but the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) opposed the bill.
Before the vote, Dr. Richard J. DePersio, president of TMA, sent a letter to the Tennessee representatives asking them to reconsider.
“We, the physicians of Tennessee, believe this legislation is not in the ultimate best interest of Tennesseans,” DePersio wrote. “It will increase health care costs for most Tennesseans, increase bureaucracy and administrative hassles for patients and practices and be detrimental to health care access and personal choice in health care.”
However, not all doctors were in line with the stance of the state organization.
Dr. Barbara Geater, a primary care physician at Rentrop and Geater PLLC in Memphis, wrote a letter supporting the legislation.
“As a working person with insurance, I am for everyone being covered, because the more people that are covered, the cheaper my health care costs are,” Geater wrote. “Those of us with health care coverage and the ability to pay do pay for those without insurance. Our health care costs and insurance costs go up to pay for those uninsured and underinsured patients.”
Dr. J. James Rohack, president of the AMA, called the vote “an important first step toward providing coverage to all Americans.”
Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, said he was “thrilled” by the votes of Cohen, Cooper and Gordon.
“THCC has been working toward this moment for 21 years. … Why it took so long is the real question,” Garr said.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses in Tennessee posted a statement on its Web site proclaiming Congress had voted yes for higher costs and no for small businesses.
“Those who chose to vote yes for this bill have chosen to ignore the protests of their job-creating constituents,” said Susan Eckerly, the national senior vice president of the NFIB. “We couldn’t have been clearer how damaging this bill will be to America’s small businesses and the economic recovery of this country.”
Another organization, the Small Business Majority, issued a statement with a different viewpoint.
“Small businesses have been waiting for health care reform for decades,” said John Arensmeyer, the chief executive officer of the Small Business Majority. “Their wait is over. The House of Representatives’ passage today of this long-needed legislation means they will finally be able to get some relief from a system that has stifled their growth and ability to innovate for too long.”
The TMA pointed out the bill did not provide a fix for the sustainable growth rate formula, which will cause doctors to take a 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements.