Opinion: Influencing healthcare reform

August 1, 2008

Both sides of the aisle are talking about making healthcare a campaign issue in the upcoming national elections.

Key Points

Both sides of the aisle are talking about making healthcare a campaign issue in the upcoming national elections.

Republicans and Democrats agree - some sort of reform to the current system of paying for healthcare in this country, as well as access to healthcare for people who can't afford the ever-increasing insurance rates, is needed. The two parties are certainly far apart, however, on the direction that healthcare reform should take.

The American College of Physician Executives released results of a survey that showed that a large majority of the respondents say physician input is vital if meaningful healthcare reform is to occur.

Voicing concerns

Grace L. Federman, M.D., of Danbury, Conn., believes that, in some cases, doctors are at least making an attempt to influence the direction healthcare reform might take. But she notes the most common reason doctors don't step into that political process.

"We have a small state, but we have a fairly active Derm PAC and, obviously, some doctors are more vocal than others. There is an ongoing dialogue within the state society, but, yes, there is always more room for feedback to the politicians.

"It is difficult for our derm society to get doctors out to Hartford with other physicians. There's always an excuse for everything, and I can't say that I'm any different.

"In addition to our own personal lives and our families, the intent is good; but when there's a three-month wait to get patients into the office, there's a challenge of running your practice, providing care to your patients, and still being their advocate in any way you can, finding time to do it all is not always possible. So, I commend that handful of doctors who do have time to go to Hartford.

"For many of us in the trenches, at least staying in touch and being facilitated by the PACs and the derm society helps," Dr. Federman tells Dermatology Times .

Ty Hanson, D.O., a first-year practitioner in Aberdeen, S.D., is already becoming a bit frustrated and, maybe even a bit cynical, about the political process when it comes to medicine, but he still believes physicians must get involved.

"Definitely. Instead of just talking to lobbyists, our representatives really should talk to us. That's why we're here. We are voters - constituents.

"I don't mind calling them, but I have never been called back. I know our congressional representative and senators are busy people, but it takes an effort for constituents to contact them.

"If I didn't call my patients back when they have questions or comments, I would be in big trouble," Dr. Hanson says.

Political game-playing

Dr. Hanson wishes it didn't always seem like legislation by crisis.

"It seems like a lot of gamesmanship. They always wait until the last minute, and then there is this quick need to get on the phone and contact the legislators. There should be a better way to do that."

Several of the doctors cite the need to support the efforts of medical organizations and PACs financially.

In Beverly Hills, Calif., assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine, Sid Danesh, M.D., considers supporting the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to be vital.

"The AAD is very helpful so far, and they can be even more so if they receive the support.

"Unfortunately, because doctors are so busy within their practices, they are often not able to get as personally involved as they might want. If doctors were better organized, we could have a bigger impact, but we don't have anybody to organize that effort. We really don't have a strong enough organization to reflect doctor's voices.

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