President Obama heads to Chicago today, but he will not be greeted by a hometown crowd. Instead, he'll be trying to sell his plan for a public, government-sponsored health insurance plan to the American Medical Association. Skeptical doctors who don't like what they see in his health care reforms are going to be in the audience.
Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) has a unique perspective on the issue. He is a member of the House of Representatives, but also a doctor. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday.
Kiran Chetry: The American Medical Association does have some serious concerns about a government-sponsored, public health care program. You share some of those same concerns. In a nutshell, what troubles you the most?
Ron Paul: Well, I don't like socialized medicine. We've had corporate medicine now for about 30 years, which is managed medicine by the government and it's been a total disaster. And it didn't do much more than push the cost up. And it didn't work. So now we only have one other choice, it seems, and that is going towards total government medicine. I would like to see that medicine be delivered in the marketplace like other goods and services. There's no reason we can't do this. Everybody complains about one thing. The cost of medicine is too high. And it is. But they never talk about exactly why.
There's an inflation factor involved too. We create inflation, but it goes into certain areas of the economy more so than others. The more the government is involved in an industry or a service, the higher the prices go. So in education, cost goes up way beyond the cost of living and the cost of medicine goes way up. So you can't solve the problem of medical care by…ignoring this. Now, Obama says, what we're going to do is we're going to tremendously increase the services and we're going to cut all of the payments to the doctors and the hospitals. Where is he coming from? This can't possibly work.
Chetry: There are some physicians groups who do support this. One is the Physicians for a National Health Program. They argue that a singer payer, government-run approach is the only real solution to control costs, remove unnecessary overhead in the current system. Do they have a point?
Paul: No, I don't think so. There's no proof that single payer, socialized medicine has ever been beneficial. That's why in Canada we find many people leave and come here because we do have more freedom here than they have in Canada and you don't have to wait in lines. We just have the problem of cost. And that is the problem. The other thing we have messed up is the concept of insurance. We're talking that what is assumed is that insurance is prepaid services. Insurances are supposed to measure risk. But now, when you talk about health insurance, that means pay for everything.
But we need some market factors. We need control by the patient. We need an incentive not to waste our services. We need some tax incentives, and we need to put control back in the hands of the patient. I started medicine when there was no Medicare and no Medicaid. And let me tell you, I don't remember one time where I saw people out in the streets begging for medical care. Now we do. With managed care and now with socialized medicine coming, believe me, quality will go down, costs will go up. There will be shortages, there will be lines, and nobody's going to be happy.
Chetry: Do you agree that doctors deserve some of the blame for driving up the cost of health care?
Paul: I do and it's very aggravating. And part of the reason is because the money is out there. Instead of getting better quality and more people served, you have higher cost and people do take advantage of this. But another reason why we as physicians frequently order way too many tests is because of the litigation, the fear of lawsuits.
I did OB/GYN, and believe me, I was never sued but I never forgot the idea, “My God, if I don't do this C-section right now, what's the attorney going to say tomorrow?” So you end up doing a lot more C-sections. If you come to the emergency room, you get a $10,000 bill because it's a third party payment. Third party payment, per se, is really the biggest problem that we have. And the direction we're going in now is going to make it absolutely much worse.