Whenever I get the chance, I listen to a radio show called Health Talk with Dr. Robert Hoffman. The show airs on 710 WOR in New York City, but anyone can listen over the Internet on wor710.com. In my opinion, Dr. Hoffman is a brilliant integrative physician who uses all aspects of traditional and alternative medicine in treating his patients.
Besides being an outstanding doctor, Dr. Hoffman also has an astute understanding of real world issues and politics. Although Health Talk is far from a political talk show, Dr. Hoffman isn’t afraid to speak out on subjects dealing with the world of health and medicine.
Over the past several months, Dr. Hoffman has saw fit to dedicate entire programs to the issue of national healthcare/socialized medicine/single-payer healthcare/Obama-care, or whatever you care to call it. He’s had medical scholar and patient advocate Betsy McCaughey on his show to discuss and dissect the healthcare reform proposals in congress. Ms. McCaughey may very well be the only person in the country who has read the entire bill! Needless to say, she is unequivocally against the Obama-care bill that is now so hotly being debated throughout the country.
On Monday, (8/24) Dr. Hoffman had another guest on his program to discuss this highly controversial issue. This time, the guest was another integrative physician by the name of Kent Holtorf who heads the Holtorf Medical Group in California. Dr. Holtorf and Dr. Hoffman both believe that “nationalizing” healthcare would be very damaging to the country as well as to the health of the American people.
It was so refreshing listening to actual practicing physicians talking about this issue instead of the lawyers in congress and their hacks in the media. Why is it that people who graduate from law school, and are then elected to public office, all of a sudden believe that they’re experts in everything from the auto industry to medicine? Notice that most of these lawyers aren’t interested in tort reform as part of the comprehensive reform that they endorse.
Dr. Holtorf runs a fairly unique practice in the sense that he doesn’t accept any insurance or Medicare payments. In the medical community, it’s called being “off the grid.” Gee, what a novel idea; people actually paying out of pocket for services rendered! Before some of you go into cardiac arrest over this, Dr. Holtorf believes that everyone should carry “catastrophic” coverage insurance. These policies have a high deductable and are therefore very affordable. Like many conservatives and libertarians, Dr. Holtorf believes that the ever rising costs of healthcare can be relieved by free market solutions. He believes that good ole fashioned competition is lacking in our current healthcare system, and this problem would only be exasperated by a “public option” system.
Unlike the one-trick-ponies in the Obama administration, Dr. Holtorf has alternative solutions to America’s healthcare “crisis.” For instance, he believes that if an employer pays $500 per month for an employee’s healthcare, it would be more cost effective to spend $100 per month for a catastrophic care policy, and then offer the extra $400 directly to the employee in a medical savings account. The $400 would be used to cover basic healthcare expenditures such as office visits. One of the key elements of a medical savings account is that the holder of the account gets to roll over the unused money at the end of the year, or even perhaps keep a percentage of it. This would entice people to “shop around” for the most cost-effective healthcare. When people are actually spending cash on healthcare that can eventually be theirs to keep, they’re much less likely to visit the doctor every time they have a runny nose. They’re also much more likely to try harder to remain healthy in the first place.
Not being a politician with an agenda, Dr. Holtorf also discussed some of the problems with medical savings accounts when they’ve been tried. He claims that hospitals, labs, and doctors were charging five to ten times more for procedures if a person had a medical savings account; in other words, paying in cash. They do this in order to recoup the losses they incur from insurance company and federal government payments. Dr. Holtorf believes that simple legislation would be needed in order to fix this problem. He suggested passing laws that would require doctors, hospitals and labs to post their rates much like food prices in a supermarket. He also suggested that much like buying gasoline, cash payments should always carry the lowest fee. One of the main reasons that our healthcare costs are out of control is the fact that most natural free-market forces are missing from the system.
Medical savings accounts are not the cure-all for the healthcare system. They are most beneficial for younger and healthier people who have no chronic illnesses. However, they can and should be part of a more comprehensive free-market based solution. Why destroy the whole system when all you need are some creative ideas along with some targeted legislation to address the problems in the current system?
Both Dr. Holtorf and Dr. Hoffman agree that the current insurance based system is a very inefficient way to administer healthcare. However, they both also agree that a government bureaucracy taking the place of the insurance companies would be a far worse system for both doctors and patients.
If President Obama and the Democrats were really serious about healthcare reform, they would seek out the input of the people who are on the front lines of the healthcare system.
Call me crazy, but when it comes to addressing healthcare issues, I have a lot more confidence in people like Dr. Hoffman and Dr. Holtorf than I do in Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, and Barack Obama. But hey – that’s just me!