INTRODUCTION OF TREAT PHYSICIANS FAIRLY ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - August 03, 2007)
* Mr. PAUL. Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Treat Physicians Fairly Act, legislation providing tax credits to physicians to compensate for the costs of providing uncompensated care. This legislation helps compensate medical professionals for the costs imposed on them by Federal laws forcing doctors to provide uncompensated medical care. The legislation also provides a tax deduction for hospitals that incur costs related to providing uncompensated care.
* Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) physicians who work in emergency rooms are required to provide care, regardless of a person's ability to pay, to anyone who comes into an emergency room. Hospitals are also required by law to bear the full costs of providing free care to anyone who seeks emergency care. Thus, EMTALA forces medical professionals and hospitals to bear the entire cost of caring for the indigent. According to the June 2/9, 2003 edition of AM News, emergency physicians lose an average of $138,000 in revenue per year because of EMTALA. EMTALA also forces physicians and hospitals to follow costly rules and regulations. Physicians can be fined $50,000 for technical EMTALA violations.
* The professional skills with which one earns a living are property. Therefore, the clear language of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment prevents Congress from mandating that physicians and hospitals bear the entire costs of providing health care to any group.
* Ironically, the perceived need to force doctors to provide medical care is itself the result of prior government interventions into the health care market. When I began practicing medicine, it was common for doctors to provide uncompensated care as a matter of charity. However, laws and regulations inflating the cost of medical services and imposing unreasonable liability standards on medical professionals even when they were acting in a volunteer capacity made offering free care cost prohibitive. At the same time, the increasing health care costs associated with the government-facilitated overreliance on third party payments priced more and more people out of the health care market. Thus, the government responded to problems created by its interventions by imposing the EMTALA mandate on physicians, in effect making health care professionals scapegoats for the harmful consequences of government health care policies.
* EMTALA could actually decrease the care available for low-income Americans at emergency rooms. This is because EMTALA discourages physicians from offering any emergency care. Many physicians in my district have told me that they are considering curtailing their practices, in part because of the costs associated with the EMTALA mandates. Many other physicians are even counseling younger people against entering the medical profession because of the way the Federal Government treats medical professionals. The tax credits created in the Treat Physicians Fairly Act will help mitigate some of the burden government policies place on physicians.
* The Treat Physicians Fairly Act does not remove any of EMTALA's mandates; it simply provides that physicians can receive a tax credit for the costs of providing uncompensated care. This is a small step toward restoring fairness to physicians. Furthermore, by providing some compensation in the form of tax credits, the Treat Physicians Fairly Act helps remove the disincentives to remaining active in the medical profession built into the current EMTALA law. I hope my colleagues will take the first step toward removing the unconstitutional burden of providing uncompensated care by cosponsoring the Treat Physicians Fairly Act.