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Local docs take on hot topic
Two local doctors will help us wade into the complexities of health care reform at a forum next week.

Date published: 7/26/2012

By Ed Jones

YOU KNOW it's a hot topic when you can't even agree on what to call it. Is "Obamacare" a partisan and pejorative term? Or does it rightly tie the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the president who has made it a signature achievement of his administration?

Labeling is not the toughest issue, though. Not by a long shot. Will this legislation, upheld for the most part by the Supreme Court, help or hurt efforts to reform medical care in the United States?

That will be the crux of the conversation Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a conference center above the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic on Sam Perry Boulevard in Fredericksburg. I'll be the moderator for a community forum sponsored by Healthy Life Virginia, a health newsletter produced each weekday morning by The Free Lance-Star.

This should be a great opportunity to figure out what this legislation really will do--and not do. Two doctors with significantly different perspectives will answer questions and offer their diagnoses for what ails the system.

I have to admit I'm a bit intimidated by my role as moderator. I know just enough about this act to feel overwhelmed. The complexities are so vast that it's hard to figure out which financial projections make the most sense. I guess that puts me in the big majority of Americans.

Our two experts come with impressive credentials. Dr. Jody Crane is an emergency room doctor, and Dr. Christopher Lillis is an internist. They undoubtedly agree on many things about the practice of medicine. But that doesn't include the health care reform act.

Lillis says the act is morally on target and will help the nation take "great strides" in making health care more accessible and equitable. Millions of Americans will gain access to the system. Insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. He says the law amounts to "an important first step."

Not so fast, argues Crane. Opening the access doors without first addressing basic issues such as price transparency, malpractice reform and a reimbursement approach that rewards wellness and efficiency, will just make the system worse. The resulting volume pressures on health care, without added capacity and funding, will cause reimbursements to decline, which will further stress a system that has been taxed for years. The result could be hospital closures, with loss of jobs, without any real increase in access.

So who's right? I, for one, have no idea. But with your help, maybe we can persuade the experts to explain their reasoning clearly enough so we can make an educated call.

Join us Wednesday night. Together we'll wade into the complexities and emerge, I hope, with a clearer view of what we know and don't know about health care reform.

Ed Jones: 540/374-5401
Email: edjones@freelancestar.com