Physicians Applaud Corbett Plan to Expand Health Care Access for Uninsured

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) has long supported making health care coverage available and affordable to all Pennsylvanians, as well as reducing administrative costs and improving efficiency, according to PAMED President C. Richard Schott, MD.

On Sept. 16, Dr. Schott joined Gov. Tom Corbett at a Harrisburg press conference to announce Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan.

The plan would also address physician workforce training issues through an increase in residency slots and student loan forgiveness programs tied to practicing in underserved areas.

In addition, the plan would include development of a controlled substances database to aid health care teams in determining if a person in their exam room or in the emergency department is drug seeking.

Physicians are keenly aware that when patients have health care coverage they often will seek treatment earlier instead of putting off care until they are sicker. A plan to provide this coverage could provide savings by allowing patients to get care for their serious illness before they require costly hospitalization.

“PAMED applauds the governor’s plan and looks forward to continue working with him and other stakeholders to improve the health of all Pennsylvanians,” Dr. Schott said.

Key components of access to care that are addressed in the Healthy PA plan and are supported by PAMED include:

Expanded access to health care for the uninsured
The physician members of PAMED believe that health care coverage should be available and affordable to all Pennsylvanians. The Community-Based Health Care Act (Act 10, formerly Senate Bill 5) signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on May 21, 2013, provides grants to community-based health care clinics to expand and improve health care access and services, reduce unnecessary utilization of hospital emergency services, and encourage collaborative relationships among community-based health care clinics, hospitals, and other health care providers

“PAMED has long advocated for programs that improve access to care for the people of Pennsylvania,” said Scot Chadwick, vice president of governmental affairs at PAMED. “Our hope is that with adequate funding this program can make a meaningful contribution to that effort.”

Continued access to health care for children
A key priority of Corbett’s plan is to retain Pennsylvania’s safety net coverage for children. Pennsylvania currently has one of the highest percentages of children enrolled in health care coverage in the nation, at 95 percent. According to the outline for Healthy PA, the governor will seek to eliminate the mandatory six month waiting period for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and will authorize CHIP by Dec. 31, 2013.

Medical student debt forgiveness
According to an October 2012 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the mean for indebted graduates from the class of 2012 was nearly $167,000, not including premedical educational debt. Pennsylvania has many areas that are medically underserved including in both rural and city locations.

PAMED and Pennsylvania’s medical students have urged Gov. Corbett to find ways to provide student loan debt forgiveness.

Residency training opportunities in Pennsylvania
Additional funding to increase the number of residency slots could help the growth of the physician population in Pennsylvania, possibly in medically underserved areas.

While Pennsylvania has nine medical schools, and is a major training ground for new physicians funding for in-state residency slots has not kept pace with the need. PAMED has worked alongside the state’s nine medical schools to increase the number of in-state residency slots to keep more young physicians in Pennsylvania.

Controlled substances database
A controlled substances database would help physicians determine if a person in their exam room is in legitimate pain and needs pain medication, or a person is a pill-seeking doctor shopper Pennsylvania physicians can help identify pill-seekers and at the same time provide better care for patients with legitimate pain. PAMED has urged action on legislation to enact such a database in Pennsylvania.

This legislative session, Pennsylvania physicians are urging the state legislature to pass legislation creating a controlled substances database.

Health care markets overlap state borders. All states bordering Pennsylvania have armed their physicians with a controlled substances database, leaving Pennsylvania physicians vulnerable to being scammed.

While Pennsylvania has yet to provide physicians with access to a controlled substance database to help avoid being fooled, the Pennsylvania Medical Society has been working to educate physicians on how to avoid being scammed.

Health care technology and telemedicine
PAMED strongly supports the development of a statewide health information exchange (HIE), and is pleased that the Corbett administration and legislature are moving forward with this initiative.

While physicians recognize the many benefits of a statewide health information exchange, including improved coordination of quality patient care, they are concerned with legislation that calls for their participation only on HIE advisory committees.

“Ultimately, patient care is delivered by physicians,” said Gus Geraci, MD, vice president of leadership in quality and value at PAMED and chair of the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority. “If physicians don’t get involved in the conversation, we will be forced to use what other stakeholders decide to provide”

Medical liability reform
Thanks in large part to physician advocacy, the state legislature voted unanimously to pass legislation preventing most physician apologies from being used against physicians in a medical liability lawsuit. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law on Oct. 25, 2013. The new law takes effect Dec. 24, 2013.

This legislation (Act 79, formerly Senate Bill 379) is a much needed step toward protecting most physician apologies, except for admissions of negligence, which would remain admissible. It does not take any legal right away from injured patients or impair their ability to file a personal injury action against a health care provider should they choose to do so. It also does not limit the amount that a patient can recover in such an action. Read more.