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Local doctors debate merits of Obamacare

BY JIM HALL

Drs. Chris Lillis and Jody Crane agreed last night that  the nation’s health care system is ailing.

They disagreed, however, on whether the Affordable Care Act offers any hope of a cure.

The two Fredericksburg physicians participated in a health care forum sponsored by Healthy Life Virginia, a daily email newsletter produced by The Free Lance–Star.

More than 200 people listened as Lillis, an internist, and Crane, an emergency room doctor, described the U.S. health care system as technologically superior, with millions of well-meaning providers.

Yet, it is also a disease-based, rather than wellness-based, system. It is expensive, they added, with costs rising faster than the rate of inflation, and employers shifting more of those costs to employees.

In addition, millions of people are excluded from regular care because they lack insurance. And their health suffers as a result.

“I feel like we can do better,” Lillis said.

The Affordable Care Act will help, Lillis added.

The law has already brought important improvements, he said, including expanded coverage for young adults, additional preventive services for Medicare participants, and cost control measures that require insurance companies to limit their administrative costs.

In addition, Lillis said, the bill will, in 18 months, expand Medicaid coverage to millions of Americans and establish competitive markets where millions more will be required to purchase  insurance.

It also rewards grass-roots innovations that can be extended nationwide, he said.

The federal legislation is modeled after a similar program in Massachusetts, he said, where it has led to improvements.

“The sky did not fall in Massachusetts,” he said.

Crane, on the other hand, remains unconvinced. He  handed out photocopied replicas of a check from the U.S. government.

“This law is an nothing but an unfunded mandate. It’s nothing but a blank check,” Crane said.

Crane said the law will result in the rationing of care, longer waits for service and higher costs.

He said he would have preferred to see the current system reformed before expanding access.

“The bill should have been about innovating from the ground up. It should have been about  changing the way we deliver health care,” Crane said.

Instead, “we’ve opened access to 32 million Americans to the most expensive health care delivery system in the world,” he added.

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. In June, the Supreme Court upheld most of its provisions.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433

jhall@freelancestar.com

DR. JODY CRANE

Jody Crane, 43, graduated from what was then called the MCV School of Medicine in Richmond and did his residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is board certified in emergency medicine and works as an emergency room physician for Mary Washington Healthcare.

Crane is also senior medical director at Stafford Hospital and a member of the board of trustees at Mary Washington Healthcare. He is an emergency department faculty member for the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and an adjunct professor in the College of Business at the  University of Tennessee.

He and his wife, Kim, have two children and live in Fredericksburg.

DR. CHRISTOPHER LILLIS

Chris Lillis, 38, got his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2000.

He did his internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center.

He is board certified in internal medicine and works at Chancellor Internal Medicine off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County. He also writes a regular column for the Healthy Living section of The Free Lance–Star.

He and his wife, Amy, have a son and live in Fredericksburg.

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