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NY doctors happy with new legislation, but worried about costs

Doctors on Long Island and throughout New York State said Monday they were pleased with the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of national health care overhaul law, but said further changes are needed.

The bill's expansion of the health care safety net, providing coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured, will help doctors keep more Americans healthy, physicians said.

But the doctors expressed concern at a lack of a clear plan to rein in costs. And, they said, it left intact Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula - a program that doctors say pays them too little.

The bill lacks details about how the nation can deal with "runaway health care costs," said Dr. Leland Deane, a reconstructive and cosmetic surgeon at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, in Garden City.

"I'm uneasy that the health-care bill does little to address what everyone will agree is a health care system that's too expensive," Deane said.

Not all doctors wanted the bill to pass, although many did, said Dr. David Hannan, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, which along with most national medical associations formally supported the legislation.

"I'm relieved that the bill passed, and we can move forward to improve it," said Hannan, a family practitioner in upstate Marion.

"As with many pieces of legislation there's some good and some bad. As the process goes forward we hope to keep the good and correct the deficiencies."

Physicians in some specialties, didn't support the bill. But the basic fact that more than 32 million uninsured people will now have insurance "will help the doctors of America keep these people healthier longer," Hannan said.

"When people don't have insurance it's hard to treat them effectively. They don't get preventive care."

Often uninsured patients will end up getting expensive emergency room treatment for critical problems such as strokes and heart attacks caused by high blood pressure that could have been prevented through routine treatment, he said.

Another key achievement in the bill is the elimination of the gap in prescription drug coverage for Medicare Part D, Hannan said.

Under the current Medicare system patients must pay the full cost of some prescriptions, sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars. To cope with the high cost of these prescriptions, patients sometimes skip or reduce doses, causing further health problems - but that full-cost requirement is eliminated in the new bill, Hannan said.

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