While the U.S. health care system needs reform, it can be done without government involvement, a 5th district U.S. Congressional candidate and doctor told an audience Tuesday in the Oklahoma Memorial Union.
Dr. Johnny Roy, chief of urology at the Edmond Medical Center, spoke during a public health care forum put on by the Medical Ethics and Issues Discussion Panel.
Roy said the health care system is broken because of two reasons: 1) intermediaries come in between the patient and the doctor; and 2) too much is spent on defensive medicine.
“We have the best health care in the world,” Roy said. “The problem is with access and cost.”
Roy said health care has become so expensive in the U.S. because health insurance is used to pay for minor issues, such as treating a sore throat or foot fungus. Roy said insurance should be reserved for serious health issues, and people should pay for minor issues.
“For those that can pay something, they should pay for some part of their health care and leave the big items for the insurance,” Roy said. “For those that can’t pay, we are a compassionate nation. We can take care of those that can’t fend for themselves.”
Roy used a scenario of a patient with a headache going to the ER demanding an MRI as an example of unnecessary defensive medicine.
“The chances of having a brain tumor when you have a headache is extremely remote, but people come to the emergency room and say ‘I want the MRI or I’m going to sue,’” Roy said. “So we do all these things that are unnecessary because patients demand it.”
He said tort reform is needed to combat rising health costs, citing a December 2008 report by the Pacific Research Institute, which states more than $124 billion is spent every year on defensive medicine.
“We have three committees in the Congress writing bills, and there is not a whimper about tort reform,” Roy said.
Roy said a government-run health system would be ineffective because the government would dictate what procedures patients could receive, and that the government would begin to take over other industries.
He said countries such as England or Norway use methods of comparative effectiveness to decide who gets treatment and who does not.
“These guys are detached from that patient,” Roy said. “Only you and the physician can decide the treatment. You can’t just look at numbers and decide who gets treatment.”
Questions were taken during the forum, and many of the questions involved how the uninsured citizens in the U.S. would be paid for, and who would end up paying for the care of the uninsured if Roy believed the government should not.
Roy said one solution would be to allow people to buy insurance from companies outside of their home state so people could find insurance that they could afford.
“We don’t want the government to dictate what can be done in health care,” Roy said.
When asked if he thought health care was a privilege or a right, Roy said the U.S. Constitution would deem it a privilege.
“There is nothing in the Constitution about health care,” Roy said. “What we have is entitlement. It should never be a right. My right is from the Constitution.”
Niekia Franklin, co-president of the panel, said the group brought in Roy to give students a perspective from a politician with a medical background.
“Everyone is affected by health care in their daily lives,” said Franklin, zoology sophomore. “Having Roy gives students an opportunity to hear from someone who has experience with politics and medicine.”
Roy is a former OU Health Sciences Center professor and former president of the National Kidney Foundation of Oklahoma. He is president of the Oklahoma County Medical Society, and recently became chairman of the board at the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology.