Doctors Group Offers Innovative Reform Proposal

Published January 1, 2008

An association of doctors and dentists has created a remedy for America’s ailing health care system that does not include increasing taxes, requiring Americans to buy insurance, or burdening employers.

The plan by the International Association of Dental and Medical Disciplines (IADMD) recommends legislation allowing doctors and dentists to write off charity care they offer to Americans who need health care but cannot afford to pay for it.

“If you donate a couch or a car, you get a tax write-off,” said Dr. John Ryan, founder of IADMD and a dentist in Salem, New Hampshire. “But when we donate care–which millions of Americans need–we don’t get any kind of tax relief.”

For the past four years, Ryan has been building IADMD, a group of doctors and dentists linked by a secure Web-based system that allows them to coordinate individual patients’ care. His own charity work and his work with other doctors in the association prompted him to consider how doctors nationwide might give more low-cost and free care to the working poor–the population that earns too much to receive Medicaid but too little to afford insurance.

Going National

Ryan has been offering charity care for about 10 years. An agency screens the patients first to make sure they qualify for low-cost or free care.

“We thought, ‘Why couldn’t this work nationally?'” Ryan said. He envisions a system in which patients would log onto a private Web site to locate a primary care doctor. The system would track doctors’ donated hours for tax write-offs and distribute needy patients across all the participating doctors in a community.

“If this population had primary care doctors, people wouldn’t show up at the emergency room for every cold and sniffle,” Ryan said. “We don’t want people going to the hospital for their primary care–it’s a huge cost.”

Ryan says his biggest worry is government-controlled health care, and he’s hoping that living and working in New Hampshire will help him get the attention of policymakers and even presidential candidates for the plan, which was announced in October.

“I don’t think most people understand what national health care would do,” Ryan said. “We see patients from Canada in droves here. They’re waiting for care [at home]. That’s scary.”

Hilary Masell Oswald ([email protected]) writes from Denver.

For more information …

International Association of Dental and Medical Disciplines: