Health care is a hot topic nationally, but in New Jersey it holds a particular place of honor. In 1766, a decade before the founding of the nation, The Medical Society of New Jersey was founded to ensure the practice of modern, safe medicine in the colony. The oldest professional society in the nation now has a new president. Dr. Christopher Gribbon joins Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.
Aron: Thanks Mary Alice. Dr. Gribbon, congratulations on being the 225 president of the Medical Society.
Gribbon: Thank you very much for having me here today.
Aron: What is at the top of the Medical Society’s legislative agenda in Trenton at the moment?
Gribbon: Well the theme of my tenure as president is knowledge, skill, empathy and respect. Those are the skills that we bring to our patients everyday.
Aron: Knowledge, skill, empathy and respect?
Gribbon: Absolutely, and these are the themes that I intend to bring to our advocacy. So, the things that we are most interested in right now is increasing the amount of time that physicians can spend with their patients without being bombarded with undue regulatory burdens, so that’s a very important topic for us both nationally and at the state level. One of the other things that we want to do is to make it possible for doctors to have much better access to information so that they can provide that kind of care to patients. And for that reason we are going to set up a health information exchange in New Jersey to connect all of the different hospitals and electronic medical records so that doctors can have access to information from all over the state.
Aron: While you’re trying to do that, state policy makers have been embroiled for years now in a debate about out-of-network billing, surprise billing. There is a piece of legislation currently, it passed an Assembly committee, it’s going to a Senate committee soon, where you do you stand on it?
Gribbon: There’s a bill that’s in the Assembly that reflects our position quite accurately with respect to transparency and notification from insurers and from physicians to their patients so that everybody understands what the health care benefit is all about. Health care benefits has changed tremendously recently. There is a proliferation of very high deductible plans, there is a lot of co-pays that people are being faced with. Patients don’t know often what they have when they go into a situation where they are receiving treatment. So, we support health care literacy and we support all of the efforts that are being made to show transparency in the health care market.
Aron: Does that mean that the patient will know if the anesthesiologist on his operation is going to be out of network and can prepare for that surprised or that the physician that drops in on him in his hospital room to just check on him for a minute, who happens to be out of network, is going to bill him a month later. That level of transparency?
Gribbon: Absolutely, that’s the level of transparency that should take place and that’s what we advocate for in the legislation that we are supporting.
Aron: And how about capping the amount of surprise the bill can be. That’s part of the legislation.
Gribbon: The idea is to prevent these surprise bills from happening in the first place.
Aron: It would cap it at what right now? What kind of cap rate are they looking at?
Gribbon: The specifics of one of the bills that’s in the Assembly right now and that’s in the Senate has a system for arbitration, the specifics of exactly what the parameters are if they change frequently. The point is that we’re not playing baseball, we’re physicians. And to have baseball style arbitration regardless of what the parameters are that you set on it is inappropriate.
Aron: Those who believe in it say that the threat of arbitration often forces a settlement of the bill.
Gribbon: And we have long proposed an ability to offer guidance for settling bills. We offer those services right now to independent insurance plans and we’ve operated them very successfully and continue to offer that service.
Aron: We only have about half a minute left, briefly what’s the position of the Medical Society on the health care bill in Washington right now?
Gribbon: Well, it’s one of our position in the AHCA. The problem is that too many people could potentially lose their coverage. And Medicaid was expanded in New Jersey as you know and a lot of people have insurance through expanded Medicaid right now even though New Jersey is the 49 out of 50 in the country in terms of Medicaid payment to physicians. It is still some form of insurance that will hopefully keep people out of emergency rooms. We are in support of our congressional delegation from New Jersey ,which from the most part voted no on the AHCA and we really applaud them for that.
Aron: Dr. Christopher Gribbon, thanks very much for joining us.
Gribbon: Thank you very much for having me.