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Public Health Pro's: Medical “Freedom” Could Mean Higher Costs for Everyone

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 By Doug Ramsey/Don Mathisen, Contact
October 30, 2008

Phoenix, AZ - Supporters of an Arizona ballot initiative contend its intent is to prohibit government from dictating health care choices, but opponents call it an attempt to forestall any kind of universal health care. Furthermore, they say, it would forever enshrine "medical freedom of choice" in the state constitution--wording that initiative opponents think is so vague that there's no telling what kind of medical care would be available.

"We would like to see some meaningful health care reform, and this would prohibit that from happening," says Jack Beveridge of the Arizona Public Health Association. He warns that if health insurance plans can't put some limits on consumer choices, then there's no hope for reducing health costs while providing coverage for the state's million-plus uninsured. The measure also could end additional consumer health benefits mandated by government and now taken for granted.

Supporters of the initiative argue medical costs can be cut by giving patients the widest possible variety of health care options. Beveridge disagrees, saying the measure would mean higher taxes to pay for Arizona's innovative indigent health care plan, which is currently a national model for medical cost savings.

"Some people believe it would allow Medicaid recipients to go to whatever doctor or health care provider they want without any kind of management at the health plan level, which would cost billions of dollars in this state."

Beveridge says the initiative could also cause people enrolled in work-based HMO's and PPO's to see their premiums boosted.

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