By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
There was a time in this country when doctors, dentists, optometrists, and chiropractors were independent businessmen who saw the patients that they wanted to see and they and their patients set the price for their services on the free market. Then health insurance companies began to set the prices for the services that medical providers can get paid and doctors and the other medical professionals could choose whether or not they wanted to participate in those plans. Then in the 1980s the federal government established the DRG system. Federal bureaucrats established what the Medicare agency set for services. If doctors, optometrists, dentists, and chiropractors wanted to see patients who participate in that program they had to elect to receive that set dollar amount as payment.
Whether they are internationally recognized as the best in their field or are just starting out, what Medicare pays for the service is the same. State Medicaid agencies followed suit and soon Congress, the state legislatures, Medicaid, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Patient Provider Organizations (PPOs), and other managed care organizations had more control over pricing for medical services than the medical professionals themselves had. Medical care providers could still opt to choose what plans that they take and whether they participate in a plan or not.
Even that little bit of freedom is starting to slip away as government gets to be an even bigger player in the healthcare sector of the economy. Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City is sponsoring a bill, SB 22 that protects the licenses of doctors, dentists, optometrists, and chiropractors who elect not to participate in plans with which they disagree.
SB 22 was given a favorable report by the Senate health Committee on Wednesday, January 22.
Senator Williams told the Committee that the bill passed out of their committee last year, but was tied up in the House due to time constraints. It mirrors a law in Georgia and applies to physicians, optometrists, chiropractors, and dentists. The bill says that medical providers can not have their license withheld because they elect not to participate in some plan. “Who they choose to see as a patient is purely their business decision,” Senator Williams said.
The Etowah County Senator said that Massachusetts has withheld licenses for providers who refuse to participate in their Romneycare program. Minnesota has done the same thing to dentists and as Obamacare (the government takeover of the healthcare sector authorized in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 spreads and gets more implemented this is becoming a bigger concern.
Senator Paul Bussman (R) from Cullman introduced an amendment which would add optometrists.
Sen. Williams said that they were accidentally left off.
The amendment passed and the Health Committee issued a favorable report in a 9 to 1 vote.
Senator Linda Coleman (D) from Birmingham was the lone “no” vote.