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Friday, January 22, 2010

Healthcare legislation: Okay, now what?

Congressional leadership, stunned by the Massachussets referendum against radical healthcare overhaul legislation, doesn't seem to know where to turn next legislatively. Here's a hint:
  • Practice bipartisanship, transparency and focus on the good of the country rather than ramming radical socialistic policies down our throats through closed-door deal-making and pork-barrel political bribes.
  • Provide a targeted safety net for poor patients instead of penalizing the rest of the country who can afford and are happy with their plans.
  • Keep government money out of abortions rather than subsidizing abortion and mandating that every region offer abortion.
  • Protect the conscience rights of medical professionals instead of forcing them to choose between following moral standards or obeying mandates to participate in unethical practices like abortion on demand.
  • Preserve the patient-physician relationship and decision-making rather than creating massive new bureaucracies and mandating care and resource decisions.
  • Institute malpractice reform rather than allowing unjustified and excessive medical malpractice lawsuits to drive good doctors out of medicine.
Many of these principles are embodied in the "Empowering Patients First Act," a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA 6th).
The 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org), the nation's largest association of faith-based physicians, has voiced support for the conscience-protecting provisions of that bill. CMA contends that the protections are needed to avoid a potentially catastrophic loss of faith-based healthcare on which millions of poor patients depend.
More from CMA's news release:
In a letter sent to Rep. Price regarding the bill (HR 3400), CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens noted, "Lawmakers must realize that threatening or minimizing conscience protections holds the potential to create a catastrophic shortage of healthcare access, especially for poor patients. Our national polling (available online at www.Freedom2Care.org) reveals that 95 percent of faith-based physicians are prepared to leave medicine altogether rather than violate their conscientiously held ethical convictions."

Dr. Stevens wrote, "As you know, President Obama has announced plans to rescind the relatively new federal provider conscience regulation, which also provides for such a reporting mechanism. It is imperative, therefore, to enact legislation that protects conscience rights from the whims of any administration that might minimize the opportunity to address civil rights violations related to conscience."

Dr. Stevens thanked Rep. Price for recognizing the need for strong, true and broad conscience protections.

"The bill [Sec. 106 Part (d) of HR 3400] also provides a critical component of conscience protections. Many healthcare professionals encounter pressure to violate ethical codes on many issues besides abortion. HR 3400 addresses this reality by offering appropriately broad conscientious protection 'to accommodate the conscientious objection of a purchaser or an individual or institutional health care provider when a procedure is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of such purchaser or provider.'"

In his letter, Dr. Stevens also noted the benefit of designating the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a reporting outlet for healthcare professionals experiencing discrimination for their conscientious stance on ethical issues.

"Besides protecting any individual or institutional health care entity from discrimination 'on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions,' the bill also provides the crucial implementation avenue needed to make such protection effective."


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