Texas Medical Center tells Obama to slow down

Houston Chronicle:

In their first unified voice on the subject, Texas Medical Center leaders Monday sent a message to Congress as it tries to reform America's troubled health care system: slow down.

Appearing at a news conference sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, many of the medical center's biggest names said the issue is too important to rush through legislation that could have unforeseen harmful consequences.

“This is a monumental piece of legislation that is going to impact people for many years, both the 300 million people who have insurance and the 47 million who don't,” said Dan Wolterman, CEO of the Memorial Hermann Health Care System. “The priority should be, let's get it right, not let's get it done fast.”

Afterward, some of the leaders acknowledged the time needed might extend past 2009 but said it's more important to pass a good bill than to meet an arbitrary timetable. Two said the process ought to take years, perhaps involving a series of bills.


At the news conference at Ben Taub Hospital on Monday, Hutchison said “everything about the bill is counter intuitive,” then turned over the podium to a who's who of medical center leaders that included Harris County Hospital District Chairman David Lopez, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston President Dr. Larry Kaiser, Texas Heart Institute President Dr. James Willerson and Ben Taub Chief of Staff Ken Mattox. Every major medical center institution was represented.

Though each brought its own concerns, they were united that reform is necessary but that Congress needs to tread carefully to preserve the best of American health care while it tries to fix what's broken. They complained that Congress has done little to solicit input from the medical community.


Medical center leaders' criticism of reform efforts include: no mechanism to pay for the expanded coverage by cutting waste, fraud and errors; no attention paid to the role of illegal immigrants on health care costs; and no emphasis on prevention and graduate medical education.

The unity extended to those not at the press conference, such as Texas Medical Center President Richard Wainerdi, who said the House bill “may have unintended consequences that could be catastrophic to providers and patients” and UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center President Dr. John Mendelsohn, who said “Congress needs to focus on the whole package, not just access.”

These guys don't sound like people trying to run up the bill with unnecessary tonsillectomies.

Concern over the role of illegal immigrants has already been addressed. The Democrats have voted to give them free medical care, even if it means the hospitals will have to eat the cost. It is surprising to me that Republicans have not made more of an issue of this. Are they concerned about losing the vote of illegals?

Sen. Hutchison made an astute political move in putting this conference together. It gives her some ammo to use against the Democrat bill as well as some political cover.


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