As Congress green-lights health care debate, some physicians stand in opposition
Just 12 hours before the Senate agreed to move forward with the health care bill debate late Saturday night, some 400 physicians filed in to Millennium Park to protest it.
Holding signs such as “Stop the hypocritical plague,” a play on words for the Hippocratic Oath all physicians must pledge, and “Tort reform is health care reform,” doctors and nurses protested the bill, a rally put on by Docs 4 Patient Care, an organization of health care professionals launched in May. Six similar rallies happened in other cities at the same time.
“We understand that there needs to be reform within insurance companies,” says Lisa Hall, a registered nurse at Centegra Memorial Medical Center in Woodstock, “and we are completely behind that, but not to overhaul an entire system that is working well for most of the country.”
Two primary schools of thought have emerged in opposition of the proposed health care bill: a progressive group that typically supports a single-payer system and a more libertarian viewpoint that emphasizes the importance of a free-market insurance industry. Docs 4 Patient Care follows the latter stance.
Protesters at the Docs 4 Patient Care pointed to the recent mammogram guidelines published by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force as a sign of big government denying care for citizens.
“No matter how good your doctor-patient relationship is, it’s not going to matter. People are still going to want tests done. And we can still be held liable for that if we don’t do a specific test,” said Dr. Jeff Schiappa, a family physician in Mokena.
At the center of its platform is tort reform, which would alleviate the threat of malpractice liability for physicians. This in turn would reduce medical costs due to less “defensive medicine” being practiced to theoretically avoid a malpractice lawsuit. Advocates of a free-market approach to health insurance believe the public option would destroy the integrity of America’s capitalist structure and broaden the reach of government.
Dr. James Milum, president of the Illinois Medical Society, believes that a public option that competes with private insurance companies would eventually be destructive to the industry and too many jobs would be lost in the process.
“Anything that has to do with single payer [will make America] become Orwellian,” said Milum. “I don’t care whether it’s United Healthcare or the government, a single somebody running things is not the American way.”
The Illinois Medical Society was recently criticized for breaking away from the American Medical Association with its support for the health care bill, but Milum wants to set the record straight. Though he does not see how a public option is viable in a free-market economy, he said that his society supports hearing the bill out.
“At least in my experience, very few bills come out the way they are introduced,” he said.
The Chicago-based Physicians for a National Health Program is a nationwide advocacy group that endorses a single-payer health system. With over 17,000 members nationwide and 700 in Illinois, the group strongly opposes HR 3692 because its members do not believe that it has proposed any viable solutions that will fix the current health care system system.
“Congress is so dominated by the influence of lobbyists that they are debating plans that are not going to solve the problem,” said past president Dr. Claudia Fegan. “I’d like to throw [the bill] out and start over again.”
PNHP is urging its constituents to write to their local congressmen and explain the inefficiencies of the health care bill. The Illinois Single Payer Coalition, with about 500 individuals on its listserv, takes the same stance as PNHP.
Physicians criticized the Chicago-based American Medical Association earlier this month for endorsing a version of the health care bill drafted by House Democrats. Many physicians said that the they did not feel that the AMA, typically viewed as a representative of all physicians, accurately represented all physicians on this issue. The AMA has about a quarter of a million members.
At the time of this article’s publication, the AMA had not yet reviewed the Senate bill and has not taken a position on it. The organization states that Congress should move forward with discussions of the health care bill.