Blog | Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Here We Go Again

This post by Steven Simmons, MD, originally appeared at Better Health.

I don't know if I can do it this time. A month ago, when it appeared that Congress had backed out of passing health care reform legislation, I felt neither happy nor sad. I didn't know how I felt but this past Monday, after the following triad of events had unfolded, it became clear to me that I feel weary towards the whole health care reform process:
--First, several states temporarily halted a rapacious rise in health insurance premiums from companies with quarterly profits last year in the billions of dollars. Seriously, don't these companies have PR firms?
--Second, the Senate Finance Committee actually issued a drug warning and in this one act illuminated either a glaring problem with Congress or, far more concerning and unfortunately for us, more likely in this instance, some type of bias at the FDA.
--Third, the President called for a televised debate on health care between "both sides." Then, within days, he posted his own plan on the White House Web site. It is a 10-page summary I found hard to follow and that left me with a troubling sense of deja-vu.

Last summer I studied the President's speeches and followed the White House Web site looking for his plan on health care reform. I plastered the walls of my home office with color-coded poster boards seeking to discover the President's plan as I was spurred on by the media's persistent use of the term, "Obama's Health Care Plan." One day, I stopped my search after reading an interview with Rahm Emanuel in which he confided that the administration had decided against having an actual plan since discussion would turn towards criticizing it. Instead, the Administration planned to focus their efforts on supporting Congress. Yet the poster boards remained up, until the third or fourth time my wife asked me to take them down. Apparently, I was already weary then.

But I wonder: Will this time be different ... or not? It started admirably with a call for debate, and this time the White House has presented an actual plan. However, something seems ominously similar since the President has based his plan, in large part, on the supposedly defunct legislation of a month ago, a bill that is a thousand pages longer than the Bible and authored in a fashion much like a quilt-party from yesteryear.

I am left with the image of doctors, patients, politicians, insurance administrators and the lay press all looking at our health care system as one would a sick patient. We agree that the patient is ill, but continue to disagree on the treatment. I would prefer it if our disagreements were based on the diagnosis, i.e. the reasons health care needs to be reformed. However, an accurate diagnosis eludes us all, as many of the signs and symptoms exhibited by our sick metaphorical patient are glossed over. Symptoms include a growing shortage in primary care doctors, out-of-control malpractice premiums, onerous rules and regulations with more sure to follow, and now, conflicting advice on drug safety as the Senate is accusing the FDA of either bias or incompetence by issuing their own recommendations on drug safety in regard to Avandia.

So, I will struggle against my weariness and strive to watch the debate on Thursday in good faith despite my fears of what is to follow. I hope we bear witness to an honest discussion that sheds light on what is wrong with today's health care system because I believe this is the only way to meaningful and working "reform."

We can't afford to ignore this debate or more unbelievable events are to follow. The Senate Finance Committee just passed along medical advice; what's next? Maybe the House Ways and Means committee will determine which finger I should stick ... well never mind... I'll just watch the debate.

Until next week, I remain yours in primary care,
Steve Simmons, MD

This post originally appeared on Better Health, a network of popular health bloggers brought together by Val Jones, MD. Better Health's mission is to support and promote health care professional bloggers, provide insightful and trustworthy health commentary, and help to inform health policy makers about the provider point of view on health care reform, science, research and patient care.