Healthcare Issue stirs presidential debate

November 1, 2007

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On Call asked dermatologists around the country whether they think healthcare will play a major role in the upcoming election, and whether they have heard anything from either political party or any of the candidates that sounded promising or just plain interesting.

Generating discussion

For C. Paul Brooke, M.D., in Idaho Falls, Idaho, there is no doubt.

"It's the No. 2 issue behind the Iraq war. That's not just me. If you listen to the political pundits Sunday mornings, it's going to be major.

"It's no secret that the delivery of healthcare and the financial issues involved are very difficult, and something has to happen. The way we're going is unsustainable. We can't keep the status quo for the next five or 10 years," he says.

Dr. Brooke thinks the national atmosphere has changed since the last two presidential campaigns.

"I kept wondering why people weren't talking about healthcare in the last two national elections, and then I heard the poll numbers that healthcare was only a big issue for 12 percent of the population. It's not 12 percent now. People are petrified. Healthcare costs have just gone up and up.

"I think a lot of doctors, like myself, would participate in a Medicare-type system for people who were uninsured, but it would be a bare-bones, no-frills coverage.

"I would like to see what people like (John) McCain, (Rudy) Giuliani and (Mitt) Romney would propose as options, and affordable insurance plan for everybody in the country," Dr. Brooke tells Dermatology Times.

In Portland, Ore., Patricia L. Morris, M.D., says that personally, the issue will be important; nationally, she thinks it could still depend on several factors.

"Healthcare will definitely play a major role for me, but it depends on how much the politicians play up issues such as right-to-die and abortion, which way the debate will go. As long as Hillary Clinton is in the race and maintains her position as a leader, I'm sure it will be a major issue," she says.

Lack of concrete ideas

Although the dermatologists expect healthcare to be a major issue, several voice some surprise that they haven't heard more concrete proposals.

"I haven't heard anything different in terms of generalizations attacking the problem - nothing specific that hasn't been said before that's truly a plan," says Dr. Morris, a practitioner for 10 years who has a special interest in occupational dermatology.

"The problem is that anything that costs money is seen as a tax, and in general, Americans tend to vote down anything, whether it has merit or not, if they think it will cause an increase in taxation," she says.

"If there could be an approach that makes it look like any new healthcare plan will not cause an increase in taxation, I think people would really pay attention."