Guest commentary: Patients must come first
Rep. Steve Kagen
Green Bay Press Gazette
September 6, 2009
WASHINGTON — Caring for patients was the reason I became a doctor, and the reason I will always put patients first. But during my 33 years of practicing medicine, more and more bureaucratic hurdles have been placed between patients and their doctors, making it harder for patients to receive the care they need.
That’s why I ran for Congress — because my patients, friends and neighbors could no longer afford the care they needed.
As a doctor, and as a Congressman, I am always listening. This year I received more than 63,000 communications from people across Northeastern Wisconsin — and this month, everyone’s voice was heard.
Through all these listening opportunities, the heartbreaking stories of families without access to care and bankruptcies forced by impossible medical bills stand out.
The message is crystal clear: We must fix what is broken and improve on what we already have — at prices we can all afford to pay.
So, what works?
Health care works best when nothing stands between a patient and their doctor. Patients must always be able to choose their own doctors, and working together, they should make the deeply personal decisions about what to do. Insurance corporations should be processing paper — not practicing medicine.
Corporate and government bureaucrats and even well-intentioned members of Congress must keep their hands off my patients.
Successful programs like Medicare, Medicare Advantage, the Veterans Health Administration and the life-saving SeniorCare plan work, but can be better.
What needs to be im-proved?
Today’s skyrocketing costs for health care are unsustainable. Even though many people enjoy their coverage now, prices are rapidly rising as coverage declines. Each year we’re paying more for less.
We must establish a real medical marketplace, where openly disclosed prices drive down costs for all of us. Competition works and will lead to higher quality and lower prices.
There is a tremendous amount of waste in our health-care delivery system. Medicare can be run more efficiently, saving billions of dollars. We need to cut the fat and root out any fraud to make certain tax-dollars are invested in health care for our seniors, not lining the pockets of corporations or leaking out of government buildings.
All of these ideas were put forth by the 8th District Health Care Advisory Committee and are included in the Essential Elements of Health Care that I have presented to other members of Congress. I am proud to say that virtually all of these elements have been included in every draft of the heath-care legislation being discussed in the House of Representa-tives.
But doing nothing is not an option.
We need reforms that guarantee if you’re sick or lose your job, you can keep your health coverage. If you have health insurance, it should not cost you a fortune — and certainly not more than the mortgage payments for your home. And insurance corporations should no longer be allowed to take your money and not give it back.
I will continue to listen to everyone I have the honor of representing across Northeastern Wisconsin and will continue working hard to get the job done.
Working together, we will fix what is broken and improve on what we already have — at prices we can all afford to pay.