I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with several of my old medical school classmates. All are now practicing physicians, scattered around the country. Naturally, at some point during the weekend, talked turned to the national health care debate.
The opinions of my friends were all over the map, but it was interesting that even though ALL of them voted for President Obama, the majority of them had major reservations about health reform. Even more striking was how unininformed they were about the issues -- and how much false information they had taken as fact.
One friend asked, "So what are our lives going to be like under nationalized health care?"
"First of all," I said, "No one is talking about nationalized health care. We're talking about universal health insurance."
"Oh," was the reply. I'm not sure he understood the difference.
I explained to him that when we talk about a public option, we're talking about setting up an insurance plan -- like Medicare -- that is administered by the government, but is available to individuals without health insurance and employees of small businesses. I explained that -- except for those making less than 300 or 400% of the Federal poverty line -- people who wanted to enroll in this public insurance plan would have to pay premiums like everyone else, and that their premiums and the costs of their care would NOT be subsidized by the government. I explained that the public option was simply an additional insurance plan that certain qualifying individuals could enroll in -- by paying the premiums -- if they so chose. And that it wouldn't change the delivery of care, or the structure of the existing health insurance system.
"So what's wrong with that?" he asked me. "That sounds pretty good."
When people talk about "socialized medicine" or "nationalized health care", they envision the government getting involved in the delivery of medical care and in medical decision making. And this is where all the talk of rationing, and death panels, and comparisons to Canada and other European countries come from. Notwithstanding the fact the few special examples where the government IS involved in the delivery of medical care -- the VA system being the prime example (and they do a pretty good job, I might add) -- none of the proposed health reform legislation talks about government involvement in the delivery of care and in medical decision making. Perhaps this is why the President has taken to calling it "Health Insurance Reform".
No one is proposing socialized medicine or nationalized health care. We're fighting for health insurance reform. We're fighting for health insurance for every single American. We're fighting to make sure private insurance companies can never discriminate against sick people again. And we're fighting to ADD insurance choices to increase competition which will help improve quality and drive costs down.
It's as simple as that.
We're all busy people. And many of us don't have time to read about what's being discussed. And unfortunately, many of us get information filtered through sources that distort and mislead -- and what we end up hearing is a far cry from the truth.
As doctors, we are trained to seek the truth. And that's what we ALL need to do in this health reform debate. This is about an honest assessment of the facts. If you're a physician who supports health reform, then we desperately need you to help tell the rest of the country the FACTS about health reform, and why this reform is so important. And it can start by discussing reform with your physician friends and colleagues, just as I did last weekend. If you have questions about reform or need help with what to say, there are lots of resources to help guide you -- you can find many of them on our website www.drsforamerica.org. Or, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can give you some pointers about how to talk to others about health reform. Every voice in this effort counts -- so please add your voice to the many voices of physicians out there fighting for health reform.