From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — In the struggle to overhaul the nation’s health care system, 16 physicians have ended up in ringside seats — as members of the House and Senate.
But they have taken different lessons from their experiences in medicine, and they do not agree on what a bill should look like.
Of the doctors elected to Congress, 11 are Republicans and 5 are Democrats. Two serve in the Senate and 14 in the House, 7 of whom are on the three committees preparing a health care bill.
Representative Steve Kagen, a Wisconsin Democrat first elected in 2006, was an allergist whose patients included two asthmatic children of a single mother who were so ill that they could not go to school. He wrote prescriptions, but a few weeks later, the children returned to the office still suffering.
“She unzipped her bag, and she pulled out the same prescriptions,” Dr. Kagen said. “She said, ‘I went to the pharmacy, I could see the medicine my kids need and I can’t afford to buy it.’ ”
As a short-term solution, Dr. Kagen gave her samples of the drug.
As a long-term solution, he says, the nation needs a public health plan to compete with private insurers.
Another Democrat, Representative Vic Snyder of Arkansas, had dealt with patients who could not afford medicine at his family practice before he was first elected to Congress in 1996.
“I’ve certainly had experiences of writing out a prescription for someone and either having the pharmacist call me up or having the patient tell me they saw what the bill for the medicine was going to be and just handed it back,” he said.
But Dr. Snyder remains hesitant about a public plan and is emphatic that it must preserve patient choice and pay for itself. He said he had positive experiences with Medicaid, however, calling it his practice’s “most efficient payer.”
Republican members of Congress who practiced medicine, united under the banner of the G.O.P. Doctors Caucus, oppose a public plan.
Dr. [Michael] Burgess Republican of Texas], who was first elected to Congress in 2002, is a member of that caucus and sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is working on health care legislation. He remembers treating a patient who had difficulty giving birth.
“She was very, very sick and very, very dehydrated,” Dr. Burgess said. “She lost some blood in delivery.”
Dr. Burgess wanted to keep her in the hospital, but the medical director of her managed care company wanted her discharged. Dr. Burgess was able to persuade the company that she should not go home only after a lengthy argument.
Dr. Burgess, who reported having similar experiences with Medicaid, said, “Interference from both insurance companies and the federal government have really worn down the practicing physician.”
Dr. Burgess is open to tax credits or deductions that would help patients manage their own health care. He strongly favors a health savings account that would allow individuals to put away money tax free for medical care.
Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, who was elected last year, agrees. As a family doctor, he was familiar with uninsured diabetic patients who sought medical care — in the emergency room — only when they developed gangrene and sepsis. They would stay in the hospital for several days, costing the government tens of thousands of dollars.
Getting those patients insured with a public plan, Dr. Fleming says, is not the solution.
Rather, Dr. Fleming favors a tax credit or a tax deduction, measures that would give patients an incentive to “watch the pocketbook.” He says he is even open to an individual mandate that would make health insurance compulsory, much like automobile insurance.
“We seem to agree on everything,” Dr. Fleming said about his fellow physicians. “We agree on the fact that we need portability; we need to do away with pre-existing illnesses.”
But when it comes to a public plan, he said, doctors cannot seem to agree any more than other members of Congress.
The other members of Congress who are physicians are:
SCARBOROUGH: [...] I wonder, what would Jesus think about walking in to any emergency room in any urban center at 11:00 or 12:00 at night and seeing all of these moms bringing their children from poor families who don’t have health care having to use emergency rooms as their primary care. Is that a moral system? Is there a better way to do it? How do we do it? We can’t just say no, can we?
COBURN: No, and we shouldn’t. We’re not. and we’re not doing it, Joe, First of all, 90 percent of those moms with kids are eligible for S/Chip and we’ve done a lousy job signing them up. we ought to have auto enrollment. The option, since they are not signed up, they’re not aware of the benefits of the program is they show up at the emergency room. It’s a terrible place to practice medicine. There’s no continuity, you don’t know your patient. What we ought to be doing, we have several programs today, let’s make it work. That’s the other things Americans are wanting. Don’t change and take away the best health care system in the world, improve it. Don’t spend my grandkids’ money running it through the government when you can, in fact, work it better by getting greater value from what we’re doing today.
[...] So, Sen. Coburn must support legislation that helps those families currently eligible for S-Chip to enroll in the program, right? Wrong.
Over the last few years Democrats have tried and (finally) succeeded earlier this year in increasing S-Chip funding to help more of these families enroll in the program. And [...] Sen. Coburn opposed them every step of the way.
Senator John “Bare Ass” Barrasso (R-WY)–Orthopedic surgeon (who’s wife survived breast cancer), voted against the Legal Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act” (ICHIA) and S-Chip.
Rep. Rolf “Parker” Griffith (D-AL)–oncologist. From The Huntsville Times:
Huntsville Congressman Parker Griffith faced a crowd of more than 100 people Thursday night who wanted answers on plans for health care reform, an issue Congress is working on now.
Griffith, a retired physician, offered plenty of information and good humor even when an audience member cursed at him. He said the current system does well with innovation and technology, and poorly on issues of access and consistent quality care. He said it is too early to say if he would support a so-called public option – essentially a government-run insurance company – because no details have been provided on how that system would work.
When pressed on the single-payer approach, Griffith said he doesn’t support it.
He suggested a single-payer system would stifle health care innovation that has successfully brought down mortality rates for heart disease and cancer.
Huh? Does a single-payer system call for an end to all medical research?
Rep. David “Phil” Roe (R-TN)–ON/GYN (not sure if he specializes in men’s pregnancy like Dr. Coburn) From Big Red Tent:
Dr. Roe believes that a government-run bureaucratic healthcare system is not the answer, and that free market ideas and competition can help rein in escalating healthcare costs.
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)–specializes in the treatment of diseases of the liver; his wife is also a physician, specializing in breast cancer. From Ask Dr. Cassidy at his own House website:
Q: Dr. Cassidy, my family’s health care costs are through the roof and I know the Democrats’ health care bill won’t do anything to lower them. So what CAN Congress do to lower health care costs?
A: Unfortunately, you’re right about the Democrats’ health care bill. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office said it would actually raise overall health care costs.
There are several proven ways to lower health care costs, and all of them trace back to one common theme: empowering patients and doctors to make value conscious decisions.
Instead of creating a national health care bureaucracy, Congress should look to proven cost-controllers like Health Savings Accounts (HSA).
Yeah, I bet the question came in phrased exactly like that!
Tom Price (R-GA)–Orthopedist. From who runs GOV:
Price, an M.D., launched his congressional career because he was fed up with the cost of malpractice insurance.
After six years in private practice, Price opened an orthopedic clinic. It eventually grew into a 475-person business that earned revenues of about $50 million a year. That has helped bump Price onto the list of the 50 Richest Members of Congress issued by Roll Call.
Price helped lead the charge against the Clintons’ health-care plan in the early 1990s as a member of the Georgia Medical Association. Since his election to Congress, he has opposed federal intervention in negotiating the cost of Medicare drugs. He told the New York Times that the measure was “a solution in search of a problem.”
He does support a measure that would have increased health-insurance coverage by giving states more power to create a “state health innovation commission.”
In 2008, Price proposed a plan that would allow individuals to buy insurance with pre-tax dollars. The plan would also give tax deductions and credits to people who can’t afford insurance. “People in my district understand that the last thing we need to be doing is moving folks from private health insurance to public health insurance,” he told the New York Times.
He opposes abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.
In a speech on the House floor this afternoon, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) railed against health care reform. Specifically, Broun attacked the idea of a public plan, saying “this program of ‘government option’ is being touted as being the panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price is gonna kill people.” Broun pointed to Canada and the United Kingdom in his argument against the public option, claiming that those countries “don’t have the appreciation of life as we do in our society.”
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)–OB/GYN. From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“What we’re talking about is a move toward socialism,” Gingrey said recently, sparing no hyperbole. “You’re going to have a socialist bureaucrat in the exam room between the doctor and the patient.”
Gingrey has been among the most active of Georgia’s delegation of doctors on health care reform. In March, he helped formed the GOP Doctors Caucus, a 13-member group he co-chairs with Rep. Tim Murphy, a psychologist from Pennsylvania.
The alternative bill Gingrey supports, authored by Republican Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, would make it easier for business and social organizations — such as alumni groups and trade associations — to create insurance pools instead of the government-run insurance alternative suggested by Democrats. People who couldn’t get health insurance through their employers could get insurance from those private pools.
Charles Boustany (R-LA)–Cardiovascular Surgeon. From WTSP-TV:
[...] Charles Boustany warns against “a government takeover of health care” that he says would raise taxes and limit treatment options.
He says that could “put bureaucrats in charge of health-care decisions that should be made by families and doctors.”
Boustany also says replacing employer-based coverage could have potentially “devastating consequences,” including limits on care and higher taxes.
And there are no “devastating consequences” when someone loses a job and the insurance that went along with it.
Ron “Batshit Crazy” Paul (R-TX): OB/GYN. In his own words:
Healthcare is a Good, Not a Right
Jim McDermott (D-WA)–Psychiatrist! I swear I didn’t know he was a shrink, and listing him right after Ron Paul is completely coincidental! In his own words:
Madam Speaker, I want to reassure my colleague from Massachusetts that there is hope after all. The Bush administration has endorsed and even funded universal health insurance. The thing is, the President’s universal health insurance program is for the people of Iraq, not anything for the 44 million Americans.
The truth is that every other industrialized nation in the world has a universal health system except the United States. Half the bankruptcies in this country are due to health care costs.
Seventy-two percent of the uninsured are in families where there is a full-time worker. Sixteen percent have two full-time workers. Only 62 percent of all employers even offer health insurance, and only 60 percent of employees can take advantage of it. How bad does it have to get before we begin to do what is necessary?
Not many years ago opponents and an army of lobbyists turned back the last great hope for real reform. We were told managed care in the marketplace would save the health care system. It never happened. All through the 1990s when the economy was hot, the number of Americans without health insurance went up.
National health care does not mean government medicine.
It means a guaranteed revenue stream to give a stable set of benefits for everyone that cannot be taken away.
Reform will not change how health care is delivered, only how it’s paid for.
Health care providers will continue to do business as they already do, competing with one another, striving to be the best.
Under my plan people can choose their doctor and hospital, an incentive for innovation and a reward for excellence.
For health care providers, national health insurance means a guaranteed revenue stream.
For Americans, national health insurance means coverage for everyone.
America was founded on the premise of working together for the common good. Our society recognizes this responsibility every time a fire truck responds to a fire or a police car responds to a call for help.
Today, there is an urgent call for help from voices across America.
We have it in our power to respond. Come on Mr. President. We are already paying for universal health care. Let us make sure Americans get it.
Ding, ding, ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winnah!! Read the whole speech, kids. It’s excellent!
Delegate Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands)–Family Medicine, started her career as an Emergency Room physician, and was the Medical Director at a hospital as well as the Acting Commissioner of Health. From Yahoo News:
Underscoring the deep divisions among Democrats was concern among members of the Congressional Black Caucus that Obama and the leadership were making too many concessions to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats.
Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus said they requested a meeting with Obama.
“We felt it was important that more than one voice be heard,” said Donna Christensen, the congressional delegate for the U.S. Virgin Islands who is leading the black caucus’ health care efforts. “When we hear phrases like squeezing more savings out of the system … we’re concerned that what may be taken out will be provisions that are critical to our communities.”
The mostly liberal black caucus wants to make sure that any reform retains core provisions such as a public health insurance option that guarantees coverage for everyone.
Another winner!! Woo-hoo!!!!