DANA POINT, Ca, September 24, 2012 — Despite consistent polling that showed most doctors were never in favor of the ‘Affordable Care Act’—something consistent with the majority of Americans in general—there has been a growing unease amongst physicians to step into the arena of public politics to insure their message is getting across.
In August of 2010, the newly formed coalition of physicians and physician groups called the National Doctors Tea Party (NDTP) put on their first event in the Spanish Landing East area of San Diego. As the co-founder and co-sponsor of the NDTP event, with my colleague and (later) Congressional candidate, Wayne Iverson, M.D., I was heartened and amazed at the nearly one thousand attendees; the widespread local and national media coverage was a true testament to the fact that we had done something ‘different’ and newsworthy.
Our elation and excitement, however, quickly turned to disappointment and dismay, when a series of events made it painfully clear to us that trying to stand up for the doctor-patient relationship would be harder than any of us ever realized. First came my appearance on the Megan Kelly show on Fox TV. Apparently, someone from an opposition group had gotten to Ms. Kelly’s producer, and she thought it would be ‘good TV’ to try to embarrass our movement through a (false) accusation against Doctor Iverson. Referring to my co-founder as “that guy Wayne Iverson,” Ms. Kelly wasted 90 seconds of my five minute interview trying to taint our patient-centric themes. She alleged that Mr. Iverson’s medical group affiliations included an organization that had posted an article on its website about hypnotism by political candidates as a means of influencing voters (again, something that had nothing to do with Doctor Iverson, and nothing to do with the theme of the National Doctors Tea Party itself).
Then came the political roadblocks thrown at our efforts, and the efforts of other related groups of medical professionals attempting to bring out the deficiencies and risks to the new health reform law. These groups included the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, America’s Medical Society, Doctors4PatientCare, the Doctor-Patient Medical Association, and others. These were all relatively low-budget, grassroots groups, which despite representing the wishes of the majority of the nation’s nearly one-million doctors, were a threat to established and well-heeled organizations like the American Medical Association and its state and local charter societies.
Tragically, the AMA’s nearly 500 million dollar assets, and over one hundred million dollar annual revenue stream (and team of in-house attorneys and lobbyists) proved that entrenched politics and self-serving interests in Washington, D.C. (and state capitals all across the United States) would ultimately trump good old fashioned democracy.
To this day, there is not one state medical association (that has maintained allegiance with the AMA on Obamacare), nor the storied AMA itself, which has actually done even a single, simple survey of its constituent members to see how their doctors actually stand on the issue of the Obamacare law.
Instead, the AMA conducted closed-door meetings with the newly elected President Obama early in his term, and then decided on political grounds alone that the nation’s physicians could no longer fight for physician and patient rights, and would rather be relegated to the role of cheerleader for the general cause of ‘universal access’ to medical care in America.
What the AMA forgot in its closed-door negotiations in D.C., and in its board meetings in Chicago and New York and elsewhere, was that their waning membership of roughly fifteen percent of practicing doctors in the country did not give it the moral right to stand in support of President Obama’s law. In fact, more egregiously, what it overlooked was that the majority of doctors believed there was a better way to improve access, decrease errors, improve efficiency, and decrease costs—and it did not involve greater intrusion of Uncle Sam into the examination room.
Most doctors in America favor expansion of health savings accounts, enticements to facilitate charity care and concierge practices, competition of insurance companies across state lines, less rather than more onerous regulatory bodies, and no unelected rationing bodies making medical decisions.
In the end, the big players in American healthcare—attorneys, lobbyists, politicians, and increasingly irrelevant medical associations—would rule the day. Obamacare would become the law of the land, and may be with us forever no matter who wins the presidential election in November. The individual doctor and his individual patient would lose the battle to defeat the Obamacare law because they were too focused on the one honest truth that would be their ultimate downfall: the false belief that standing up for the right thing was power enough to effect change.
In the case of the Obamacare law, doctors and patients everywhere learned that democracy was no longer powerful or protective of patient rights or physician autonomy. They realized that the way to preserve the superiority of American healthcare would not come through media appearances, hired guns on Capitol Hill, new laws, or even the election of more physicians to Congress—all good causes in their own right.
Doctors would have to go back to their hospitals and offices and clinics and show each patient, one at a time, that quality and charity and trust in their relationship together would have to be won as a team. Each doctor would have to become a private preacher and teacher and role model.
To save the best of American medical care in the years to come, patients and voters will have to come to their own conclusion that ‘reform’ can never be prescribed as well as when their own doctor is writing the script.
Doctor Adam Dorin is a board-certified anesthesiologist and founder of America’s Medical Society. He is a published book author on health care safety and security, and a long-time contributor to the medical-political dialogue in America.
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