Too little thought given to doctors in proposals for health care reform

There is something lacking in the health care discussion of the last few months. That is an examination of the crucial role of the doctor-patient relationship in the delivery of health care.

We have heard the sad cases of patients with horrible diseases and financial hardships. We have heard politicians discuss “health care” as if it were a tangible commodity that comes in a box and can be distributed by willing volunteers.

Well here’s a shocker; Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. There are no guarantees in this world. And providing the skill and expertise that help individuals get through tough times is not cost-free.

The persistence, dedication, hard work and personal sacrifice to get through four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, three to six years of residency training and perhaps two to five additional years of specialty or subspecialty training cannot and should not be underestimated. Add that up and you are talking almost two decades of training, long hours, tedious study, time away from family and plain hard work.

Financial compensation during these years is hardly lucrative. Truly caring physicians accept this role willingly and without complaint because there is an indescribable satisfaction in the actual delivery of care.

We celebrate with our patients’ families when we succeed and we mourn with them when we fail. Many physicians live, eat, and breathe their profession 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when not on duty. Their families sacrifice along with them.

How many missed soccer games are there because of running overtime in the clinic? How many cold turkey dinners on the holidays because of the emergency patient? How many sleepless nights for the wife while dad is off at the hospital taking care of somebody else’s children?

A dedicated physician comes with a heart, and a soul and a passion for his work, his profession, his life. Charity is at the very core of what we do. And it makes my blood boil to hear empty-headed, egotistical, self-serving politicians and self-proclaimed do-gooders pontificate about how selfish or greedy doctors are.

Sure, identify and prosecute the Medicare scam artists and cheats. While you are at it, identify and prosecute the cheats in the halls of Congress or on Wall Street.

Sure, ridicule the cartoonish doctors on the golf course acting like big shots, but recognize that is not the norm.

Get the government out of my way and let me do what I do for my patients and I will do it well. Let the compensation equal the value of what I do. Get rid of the many layers of bureaucratic nonsense that lie between me and my patients. Get rid of government-mandated cost distortions.

Let me negotiate fees and payment schedules directly with my patients willingly, unapologetically and in good conscience. Let me be a physician, not a “health care provider.” Trust me, there is a difference!

I love what I do, with a passion, but I will not do it indefinitely and will not do it without reasonable compensation.

It is absolutely immoral for the government to “mandate” that I provide my expertise to whomever bureaucrats choose because someone has determined the patients are “entitled” to it.

When that phone rings at 3 a.m. who do you want answering it, a politician or a physician?

Oh, by the way, if your physician does not feel this way, you should look for one who does. And I wish you luck finding one when a government bureaucracy runs health care.


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