Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joining the Conversation on Healthcare Reform

By Becky Coffey
Harbor News Senior Staff Writer, in Harbor News, August 19
Old Saybrook, Connecticut

When it comes to health-care reform, every pundit and politician seems to be pushing his or her plan or bashing someone else’s. Dr. Richard Reece of Old Saybrook, a retired pathologist, editor-in-chief of Physician Practice Options and author of a new book entitled Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform – A Doctor Assesses the Odds for Success, has joined in this national conversation, weighing on the intended and unintended consequences of the healthcare reforms that President Obama and Congress are discussing.

Reece’s new book was written with the support of the non-profit Physicians Foundation, a charitable organizations representing 650,000 physicians who belong to local, state, and national medical societies. The book was published by IUniverse and is available through online booksellers including,, and It can also be ordered through local booksellers.

It’s Reece’s contention that the best way to contain rising healthcare costs while still providing quality care is to put the daily purchasing decisions about healthcare in the hands of healthcare consumers, the patients. He believes that successful healthcare reform will rely at some level on a market-based approach and a principle he calls patient-oriented care.

An example of consumer-driven healthcare he supports is the high-deductible healthcare insurance plans that are paired with employee-owned health savings accounts (HSAs), a consumer choice-driven program to which Congress gave tax advantages several years ago.

In these high-deductible/HAS programs, health care consumers pay much lower monthly insurance premiums in return for assuming a high annual deductible of $3,000 to $5,000.

Many employers offering these healthcare plans pay form $1,000 to $2,000 for each employee’s health savings account to offset a portion of the high annual deductible. If a consumer is careful, this approach can yield lower inlay healthcare cost than conventional point-of-service insurance plans and also provide the added benefit of incremental tax-free savings in a healthcare savings account. In 2009, employees on high deductible plans could set aside up to $5,750 each year in a health savings account; funds left-over at the end of the year grow tax-free under current rules.

Current Congressional health-care proposals would eliminate these high-deductible programs’ tax advantages.

Reece cites four obstacles to the success of current proposed healthcare reforms: culture (the American desire for unlimited choice and quick access), complexities (the many interrelated institutions and groups that all play a part in the health delivery system), costs (there is little evidence, according to Reece, that universal use of electronic medical records, for example, or choosing to pay only for treatments that work will result in cost savings), or consequences.

Writes Reece, the “consequences of curtailing healthcare costs may be worse than the cure because healthcare institutions and private practices in many communities are the biggest and fastest growing employer in town. Collectively, healthcare profoundly impacts most community economies. Healthcare’s building blocks can’t be downsized quickly or dramatically.”

But it was his praise for the Dutch single-payer healthcare system where private insurance companies sell health insurance and all citizens must buy it that recently brought him international exposure.

On the Dutch Royal TV hour long special on healthcare reform, Reece’s interview clips shared the spotlight with fill clips of conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Sanity, Rich Lowry, Neil Cavuto, Glen Beck, and Karl Rove, all speaking on President Obama’s prospects for success in healthcare reform (To view the Dutch show, go to

Reece will speak about his new book – and his views for achieving healthcare reform this year – in a talk at the Acton Public Library scheduled for the evening of Sunday, Sept. 13.

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