President Obama’s signature health care law is going to undermine doctor-patient relationships, close hospitals, cripple small businesses and result in rationed care, according to four health care professionals, including a congressional candidate, who spoke at a forum in Bethlehem Wednesday night.
The Lehigh Valley Coalition for Health Care Reform, a nonprofit with ties to conservative and physicians groups, presented the two-hour forum at Bethlehem Area Public Library to a sympathetic crowd of about 25. The panel included Laureen Cummings, a Scranton Tea Party founder and the Republican candidate for the redistricted 17th congressional district, currently held by Tim Holden.
Cummings, an LPN who owns a home health care agency in Old Forge, had a staffing service that paid nurses $40-$50 a hour to do temporary work in nursing homes but provided no health insurance. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, she said she would have to provide health insurance to her nurses without lowering their wages and she can’t afford that.
The federal government is hiring many more IRS agents to enforce provisions of the new law, Cummings said, adding that she would love to get rid of the IRS.
“It’s celebrating its 100th birthday next year. I plan to stop that birthday from occurring,” she said to great applause.
Terry Ingalsbe, who received nursing degrees from Northampton Community College and Kutztown University, said she read the entire 2,700-page law. She claimed its real aim is to bring about a collapse of the current health care system and create a single-payer, single-provider system.
“Obamacare is not a safety net, it’s a straitjacket,” Ingalsbe said. It’s also a step toward total indoctrination of the nation’s youth into a secular, Marxist worldview and it gives the federal government more private information about individuals, including about their DNA, she said.
“The world that is created by secular Marxists and Obamacare has no room for God,” Ingalsbe said.
Dr. Thomas Bonekemper, a retired internist and past director of the Veterans Administration clinic in Allentown, and Dr. Joseph Grassi, a rehabilitation specialist, said new regulations plus cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the government will mean fewer doctors will accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“Practices can’t stay open if they are reducing the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rate,” Grassi said. “Our office is four physicians, we have close to 50 employees. When I started in the office 12 years ago, we had three people in the billing office. We now have eight full-time billing personnel and they can’t keep up with the regulations.”
“There will be severe restrictions on services to the elderly,” Bonekemper said. He said it will be a return to the days when HMOs paid doctors bonuses for ordering fewer tests for patients.
Grassi predicted that rather than pay for employees’ insurance, companies will shift the burden to the workers and instead pay a $2,000 fine per employee because it’s cheaper.
Bonekemper said one of the law’s biggest failures is the lack of tort reform, which would cap non-economic damages in jury awards to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. Such a move would bring down costs because doctors wouldn’t have to perform so many unnecessary tests in the name of practicing defensive medicine.
Cummings said she signed a pledge to repeal and replace the health care law. She joined Grassi in arguing that a key to making health care more affordable is to open it up to the free market, allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines.
Cummings was asked afterward if government involvement in health care is the problem, wouldn’t it make sense to end Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration health care system? “It’s impossible to end Medicare and Medicaid and the VA right now,” Cummings said. “I believe there are better ways to fix what’s broken.”
“Our solution has to be something that lessens the burden of what we’ve already got while at the same time providing good quality care for the patient,” Cummings said.