Medical group administrator urges Medicare for all, supports H.R. 676

Administrator of Clark & Daughtrey interprets health care reform issues

By Robin Williams Adams
The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), Sept. 22, 2012

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Sticking with the status quo won't solve the woes of the United States health care system, Adil Khan said Friday, but he's not convinced the changes now being implemented will either.

Khan, chief administrative officer of Clark & Daughtrey Medical Group in Lakeland, sees more promise in proposed legislation — languishing in Congress for years — that would expand Medicare to cover all ages. It's H.R. 676, the National Health Insurance Act.

"This is not socialized medicine," he told members of the Lakeland South Rotary Club at their noon meeting.

"We're not talking about changing Medicare. It's already there. We're talking about expanding it."

Socialized medicine, he said, would be if the government owned all or most hospitals and medical practices, a change neither the current legislation approved by Congress nor the Medicare expansion would make.

Medicare already is in place, serving almost 10 percent of the population, Khan pointed out, and its 3 percent overhead costs are much lower than those of commercial health insurance plans.

Hospitals and most doctors accept Medicare.

In contrast, Medicaid, which the current health care reform effort would expand, isn't popular among doctors.

Most don't accept it, Khan said, explaining that Medicaid "does not cover the cost of providing care."

A shortage of doctors, particularly acute in Polk County, already makes it difficult for people on Medicaid to have much choice when getting medical care.

Khan spent a few minutes showcasing the expanding capacity of Clark & Daughtrey before getting straight to the heart of his message:

What's wrong with the current system?

Will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act solve the current health care crisis?

If not, what could?

"Our system is on the verge of collapse," said Khan, 44.

Eighteen percent of the gross national product went to health care last year, a percentage that's expected to increase, he said. The cost in dollars was $2.6 trillion, almost half of it government funded.

"We are seeing a lot of hospitals changing their practices," he said. "Some are having to close."

And 33 percent of people in the U.S. say they've avoided getting needed health care because of the cost, he said, compared with 5 percent in the United Kingdom, 15 percent in Canada and 25 percent in Germany.

Many people who lack health insurance seek care at hospital emergency departments, which Khan said is less efficient and more costly than seeing a doctor.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which several in the audience referred to as Obamacare, would close some gaps in getting care to the currently uninsured, Khan said.

Aspects he said he favors include letting children stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26 and not allowing pre-existing medical conditions to keep people from getting insurance coverage.

He considers the Medicaid-expansion it would use "very inefficient," however, and said implementing all the changes would add additional bureaucracy.

If the alternative he prefers were adopted, Khan said, Medicare could cover the entire U.S. population for $2.2 trillion dollars, which is less than the $2.6 trillion spent on health care overall in 2011.

"It's far from perfect," he said of H.R. 676, "but it's better than the health-care reform plan we have now."