Monday, March 22, 2010

The surgical gloves have come off

The hotly contested Obama health care plan has finally passed the House and will most likely be revised slightly in the Senate before becoming the law of the land. This new legislation could be the most significant passed by Congress since the Medicare Act of 1965 under Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and the 1935 Social Security Act of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal." What has been most distressing this past week is the degree of contention between colleagues on each side of the aisle in Congress and the rancor and outright hatred being expressed by protestors outside the hallowed halls. How and why could racial epithets be hurled and gay bashing become a part of the political antipathy felt by the angry mob? There were obvious deeply held sentiments that were felt by supporters and detractors of the bill, but I was appalled that the political process became an opportunity for hate both in and out of Congress. Shame on you, John Boehner. Has anyone explained to you the meaning of the word grace? How in the world do you justify railing about the Democratic "back room" deals when the same could be said for the Republicans when they controlled both houses of Congress? It does not bode well for the future of this Congress to enact any other legislation with this kind of contention between rank and file members. Whether the healthcare legislation turns out to be a godsend or a debacle remains to be seen, but the kind of rhetoric being spun by well-meaning politicians and protestors will do little to bring Americans together. In fact it will probably have the opposite effect of creating a boondoggle in Congress and maintain levels of distrust and loathing between Democrats and Republicans. I pay for my own health insurance and believe everyone should do so, but I understand the pain of those who say they cannot afford the costs. My feeling is that something has to be done to reel in the ever-increasing costs of medical care in this country. Will this bill bring about all the change that's needed? Probably not. Will it be a good start? Probably so, but only time will tell if this was well advised or a poor choice. The doctors are claiming it goes too far and the health care insurance industry is saying it doesn't do enough. Each special interest group has pointed fingers at one another. Meanwhile, the spiraling costs of healthcare have increased exponentially and several people in need of desperate care have been denied coverage. I don't believe that letting sick people die because they don't have the money is the answer nor do I feel it is right to give them an entirely free ride courtesy of the government. Being a doctor is an awesome responsibility. Along with it comes great pressure and overwhelming costs in the form of underpayments for services from the government and skyrocketing malpractice insurance. It is such a problem that orthopedic surgeons facing $72,000 annual malpractice premiums are seriously considering retiring or working for a public institution that pays their premiums rather than hang up a shingle to practice privately. We should not deny the best care to patients because they live in poverty or have to make choices between health care and putting food on their tables and clothes on their kids' backs. But we should not forget the health care professionals too. They need to make a high standard of living and to take care of their own families. Oftentimes the problem lies in the high salaries and bonuses paid to insurance industry officials and high-ranking officers of health management firms. Many times they keep costs down within the programs by denying claims from doctors only to put the profits they save in their own pockets. While that may be a simple overstatement and not true everywhere, there are enough reported instances of such practices that they need to be considered too. So, where do we go from here? Do we continue to blame each other for overspending or being intractable? Do we point figures and ascribe blame rather than try to work with the legislation and consider where to go from here? I don't expect the major players to go away with a whimper, but I would hope they would behave like grown adults and deal with the reality of the situation. This legislation for good or bad will soon be fact. Trying to help it along and fix potential problems that may occur seem like better plans for the strengthening of America and a better course of action for all Americans.

1 comment:

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