Dr. Dorkin joins Sen. Markey to oppose Graham-Cassidy

Below is a transcript to the testimony given by Dr. Henry L. Dorkin, M.D., FAAP, President, Massachusetts Medical Society Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 on the Graham-Cassidy Bill:

Thank you, Senator Markey, for inviting me to join you today and for your willingness to fight for the people of Massachusetts.

As the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, I am here to strongly oppose the bill. Rather than focusing on common-sense approaches to shore up the insurance markets and make the ACA work better, the sponsors of this bill have introduced an approach that is even worse than those that came before.

Let me give you a specific example of why this is the case.

Dr. Dorkin, MMS President, at testimony on Graham-Cassidy

I’m a pediatric pulmonologist. Let me tell you about a condition that quickly deteriorates when patients aren’t able to receive regular checkups and preventive care: asthma.

Asthma is major cause of illness in children of all ages. It has a tremendous impact on their overall health and quality of life, and it also has a considerable impact on the overall cost of medical care.

These children, if their disease is not well controlled, spend a lot of time in the doctor’s office, the emergency room, the inpatient service, and (not infrequently) the intensive care unit.

Children without health insurance have less access to the medications and preventive care that keep them well. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has allowed many families previously without health insurance to obtain it. This has allowed them access to the type of care which reduces exacerbations of the disease and keeps children out of the hospital.

As these children grow up, they need continuous care to let them flourish as adults – and that requires reliable, affordable, meaningful insurance coverage.

Graham-Cassidy would attack that in two ways. By undoing essential health benefits, it would allow insurance companies to choose not to cover the type of preventive care that keeps patients healthy. And by slashing protections for patients with preexisting conditions – conditions like asthma – the bill would allow insurance companies to charge astronomic rates beyond the reach of too many patients like mine.

I shudder to imagine the impact on my patients as a result of block grants. As funds dry up, the need for life-saving care goes on. I think of my cystic fibrosis patients, in need of life-saving interventions. They cannot wait for federal funding. Their conditions will simply not allow it.

It is my life’s work to fight for children with respiratory diseases. As the president of the MMS, I am here on behalf of 25,000 other Massachusetts physicians who have made a similar commitment to their patients.

We must do better for them, and I’m glad to be here to talk about how we can do so.

I would like to share a personal story. A decade ago my wife and I were at the wedding of a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis who had survived a lung transplant. While she and her new husband were out on the dance floor, my wife leaned over to me and whispered, ” you know, when I married you, we used to go to a lot of funerals of 8 and 10 year olds. Now we are going to a bunch of weddings of 30 year olds. I like this better.” I told her I liked it better, too.  I fear that if Graham-Cassidy were to pass, we would go back to attending more funerals of children. That would be unbearable, and unfair.

I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say we look forward to working with you to make sure that does not happen.

 

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