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VOL. 129 | NO. 67 | Monday, April 7, 2014

Experts Highlight Health Care Game-Changers

By Don Wade

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Both before the Affordable Care Act became law and after, consumers viewed health care costs differently than they do other costs.

“Until this law, being a woman was a pre-existing condition.”

–Dr. Scott Morris
Church Health Center

So said Dr. Scott Morris during a panel discussion at The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.’s Health Care Reform seminar Thursday, April 3, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

As Morris explained it, consumers automatically believe that whatever is more expensive is better – that if you had two equally qualified doctors available to perform a colonoscopy and one charged more, the consumer would pick the more expensive option in the belief the care would be better.

“It’s just like wine,” said Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, who served as moderator for the panel discussion.

Morris is founder and CEO of the Church Health Center. Joining him on the panel were Dale Conder, attorney at Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC; Tim Finnell, founder and president of Group Benefits LLC; and Mitch Graves, president and CEO of Health Choice LLC.

With an audience comprised of people in the health care field and others well-versed on the basics of the Affordable Care Act, also commonly known as Obamacare, Morris’ keynote did not spend a lot of time breaking down the basics of the law.

But he did point out that the law, while far from perfect in his view, does attempt to provide more equality.

“Until this law,” Morris said, “being a woman was a pre-existing condition. I’m not making this up.”

But the law also was written, Morris and others said, with the belief all states would expand Medicaid. That didn’t happen.

Tennessee and Mississippi did not expand Medicaid, but Arkansas did – and that created gaps in coverage. The upshot: People with the lowest incomes cannot get subsidies purchasing health care insurance through the marketplace exchanges, for which open enrollment ended March 31.

“The poorest people get nothing,” Morris said.

The ACA also has changed the game for employers and health care providers.

“It’s requiring a lot of employers,” Finnell said. “It’s complicated. The fines are huge” if the government finds employers are not in compliance.

Although Medicare has financial incentives for providers to document how they are reducing costs, malpractice lawsuits remain a concern. Graves’ Health Choice LLC is a physician-hospital organization that is a joint venture between Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and MetroCare. Graves said that while there seems to be fewer medical malpractice suits than several years ago, all providers remain wary.

“We still do a lot of defensive procedures (unnecessary tests) because of fear of malpractice,” he said.

Morris also expressed concern that through the cheapest marketplace exchange plans, people most often will receive primary care from nurse practitioners or physician assistants instead of doctors.

“I am not opposed to nurse practitioners,” Morris said. “I am opposed to putting nurse practitioners in a position where they are forced to practice beyond their ability, which is exactly what we are doing now.”

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