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Healthcare policy is a topic that often takes a backseat in public discourse, yet its implications touch the lives of every individual. At the heart of this debate lies the role of competition within the healthcare industry. Dr. Marcelo Hochman, a leading figure in the field, shares his invaluable insights on a pressing issue affecting doctors and patients: The prevalence of non-compete agreements.
Dr. Hochman stands at the forefront of IndeDocs, an innovative organization designed to empower doctors and reshape the healthcare landscape for the better. The organization is geared toward granting doctors more autonomy in their practices, fostering an environment that paves the way for enhanced and more affordable patient care. With a vision this impactful, it’s no wonder that Dr. Hochman’s perspective is highly sought after.
Dr. Hochman’s influence extends far beyond his insights; his actions speak just as loudly. As the founder of The Facial Surgery Center, he embodies the dedication and expertise that the medical field demands. Moreover, he is a double Board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, President of the Independent Doctors of South Carolina, and a past President of the Charleston County Medical Society.
His commitment extends to charitable endeavors as well. Dr. Hochman provides pro-bono care for children with vascular anomalies, a testament to his compassionate approach to medicine. Furthermore, he spearheads legislative initiatives to repeal Certificate of Need laws nationwide and exempt doctors from non-compete clauses, advocating for a fairer and more patient-centric healthcare system.
In a recent commentary, Doctors Alexandra E. Tunkel and Theda C. Kontis examined the rising rates of burnout among facial plastic surgeons, particularly in trainees and female surgeons. Dr. Hochman underscores the significance of their work, emphasizing the need for systemic shifts that address burnout, especially considering that new physicians are experiencing this challenge early in their careers.
“New physicians require systematic shifts toward the reduction and prevention of burnout because they are experiencing it before their career gets off the ground,” Dr. Hochman states unequivocally.
However, the crux of the matter lies in the autonomy to practice independently, unburdened by the constraints of large healthcare organizations. Dr. Hochman stresses that “the most significant factor in job satisfaction is the autonomy to practice independently of large healthcare organizations.”
Competition is a driving force in many industries, spurring companies to improve quality and reduce costs to attract consumers. Dr. Hochman aptly draws a parallel, noting, “It’s easy to see the positive impact of competition in other industries; your power to choose where you buy your groceries, gas, books, and clothes forces companies to compete for your business, generally keeping costs lower and quality higher.”
However, Dr. Hochman stresses that the healthcare sector has seen a departure from the principles of a free-market economy, favoring complex regulations that limit choices and stifle competition. He points out that hospitals and healthcare management organizations exploit misguided regulations and contractual arrangements, prioritizing financial gains over patient-centric care.
A prime example of this is Certificate of Need (CON) laws, which effectively impede competition by requiring new healthcare facilities to secure state approval. Fortunately, many states have begun to repeal these laws, including Dr. Hochman’s home state of South Carolina. Dr. Hochman shares, “In a big win for patients, South Carolina recently passed the most extensive CON repeal the nation has seen in 15 years, eliminating CON requirements for all healthcare facilities, except nursing homes, within the next three years.”
Following on the heels CON repeals, the battleground shifts to the prevalent use of non-compete agreements, a tool employed to restrict doctors’ mobility and limit their options after their contracts end. Hospitals and healthcare companies deploy non-compete agreements to prevent physicians from practicing medicine within specific areas or timeframes, thus eroding physician autonomy and the viability of private practices.
These agreements not only shackle doctors but also compromise patient care. Dr. Hochman echoes this concern, stating, “This scenario, in which doctors are trapped by non-compete agreements, can’t help but lead to lower-quality patient care.” Recent reports, such as one by the Wall Street Journal, have highlighted that autonomy significantly contributes to doctor satisfaction and, consequently, better patient care.
The impact is evident when doctors decide to leave their current positions but are bound by non-compete agreements. Patients face difficulties following their trusted doctors to new practices due to geographic constraints. Dr. Hochman keenly observes that healthcare organizations use these agreements to “prevent you, the patient, from leaving to follow your doctor, once again eliminating your freedom to choose where and from whom you receive your care.”
Recognizing the detrimental effects of non-compete agreements, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed a ban on these contracts, with potential nationwide savings of nearly $150 million in healthcare spending. The FTC’s proposed rule is anticipated to be voted upon in 2024. Regardless of the outcome, Dr. Hochman advocates for legislative actions that safeguard doctors’ right to choose their practice location and patients’ freedom to receive care from their preferred providers.
In a world where the intricacies of healthcare policy often remain hidden, the voice of advocates like Dr. Marcelo Hochman shines a light on the crucial issues affecting us all. As the President of IndeDocs and a driving force for positive change, his perspectives illuminate the path toward a healthcare system that prioritizes patients and empowers doctors. In embracing his insights, we step closer to a future where better medicine is accessible to all.