I knew there was a reason Obama rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning.
I've been a blindly Democratic voter my whole life simply by virtue of the way I was raised and because I'm a Jew. However, now I'm a Cancer patient. A Cancer patient ignorant about the whole Obama socialized health care issue because, well, I have good insurance, and let's face it people, I've got way too many issues to be vigilant about at the moment.
However, after that OB's comment about my bro's good friend Michelle Haimoff's post about me, and me posting it on Facebook like mad, I think I've just become Republican. My shrink, Dr. Ilan Melnick—shrink and friend, that is—just called me on my cell after reading the rant and explained, in plain English, the premise of Obama Care from a specialized doctor's perspective. My primary care physician is a cardiologist and family friend. He is my GP. You couldn't pay me to go to some old internist that is merely in my network and neighborhood. Thank God for that.
I'm very, very, very angry, people. SO angry that my malignant lymph node seems to be throbbing. So angry that I forwent yoga to rant for the past two hours.
Below I'm posting an email that Dr. Daryl Eber, Dana's brother and my bestest straight guy friend, sent me. Daryl is the expert, has done the research and is one of the biggest brainiacs I know. So, may I present: "My Thoughts on Health Care" by Dr. Daryl Eber.
Many people have asked for my thoughts on health care reform. So, here is a quick synopsis of one issue I feel strongly about. No surprise, I am disgusted that the issue of tort reform has not been more widely addressed.
Summary of my rant:
1. Defensive Medicine is the practice of diagnostic or therapeutic measures conducted primarily not to ensure the health of the patient, but as a safeguard against possible malpractice liability.1
2. Tort Reform refers to proposed changes in the civil justice system that would reduce tort litigation and/or damages. 2
3. Defensive Medicine costs nationally are estimated to be $65 BILLION to $200 BILLION per year. 3
4. The cost of Mr. Obama's Health Care overhaul is estimated to be around $100 BILLION per year. 3
5. The stranglehold the legal industry has over the Democratic party as they were their top single contributor in the 2008 cycle with over $47 MILLION donated.3
6. Widespread dissatisfaction of physicians regarding tort reform. Over 10,000 Physicians signed a tort reform petition that was hand-delivered to EVERY Senator on Capitol Hill and rumored to have been delivered to Mr. Obama in the oval office.4
My thoughts on tort teform:
Last Wednesday Mr. Obama told Congress and the American people, "I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are." He is in fact doing this with the trial lawyer lobby. The issue of tort reform, or legislation that would change the civil justice system to reduce unnecessary lawsuits and exorbitant monetary damages, clears the fog of partisan war. This is the best example demonstrating Mr. Obama's hypocrisy of "Change."
There are a handful of powerful trial lawyers and powerful politicians who have been very successful blocking tort reform amendments to the health care bill (H.R. 3200). Who was the largest contributor to the Democratic party in 2008? You guessed it, the legal industry with a whopping $47 MILLION donated in 2008 alone. Here's a charming quote from Howard Dean, "Here's why tort reform is not in the bill, when you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in it the more enemies you make. And the reason that tort reform is not on the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everyone else." During development of H.R. 3200, there were 11 amendments regarding tort reform. Democrats, on a party line vote, killed all of them. Senator Whitehouse (Rhode Island) came out in strong defense of the trial lobby to the various committee members in the House. Since 2005 this Senator has personally received $900,000 from the trial lobby, with some large donations coming from national tort powerhouses like Baron & Budd and Motley Rice.3 Senator Durbin (Illinois), $3.6 million in lawyer contributions, crushed Senator Baucaus' (Senate Finance Chair and leader of the Health Care Reform on Capitol Hill) attempts to include the Enzi-Baucus proposal for tort reform.3 It's comforting to know that the trial lawyers are the largest contributors to the Democratic party and most of the politicians who wrote H.R. 3200 are lawyers in the pockets of other lawyers.
I can hear you now, we appreciate your concern but Mr. Obama addressed some tort reform in his speech. Let's try to understand why he touched on this topic, only the second time publicly. The first time was at the annual AMA meeting in Chicago where he told thousands of physicians, "The only tort reform you'll see are more guidelines." You have to respect his courage for saying that in front of a room full of physicians, but don't forget he has a Secret Service detail. [LOL] Physicians were up in arms and have been loudly voicing their opinions ever since. Over 10,000 physicians signed the Sermo tort reform appeal which was hand delivered to EVERY Senator on Capitol Hill, and rumored to have been delivered to the Mr. Obama in the Oval Office.4 This is why you heard Mr. Obama say, "I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine MAY be contributing to unnecessary costs." Mr. Obama says this is no "Silver Bullet," but his plan is estimated to cost $100 BILLION per year and current estimates of defensive medicine are around $65 to $200 BILLION per year.3 I don't understand, "they may be contributing to unnecessary costs?" I'm no mathematician, but if you cut the costs of defensive medicine in half, it sure seems like a silver bullet. Tort reform is widely popular among voters with polls showing 70% to 80% of Americans believe there is excess litigation.3 Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, doesn't this meet the definition of a consensus? I believe these facts contribute to the general distrust of Mr. Obama's proposal. If Mr. Obama truly believes in real health reform, he needs to advocate the best "medicine" for our country and stand up to this powerful lobby and pass substantial tort reform. Let me see, "Financial Reform," "Health Care Reform," "Legal Reform" easy sell!
So, Mr. Obama suggested test projects. I'm not a huge Sarah Palin fan, but I'm pretty sure she tweeted that Texas and California passed successful medical liability reform years ago. Is the data not available? Were the tests too successful so more need to be performed? I'm a little concerned that Kathleen Sebelius, his secretary of health and human services, is in charge of these new test projects. Mrs. Sebelius only spent eight years as the head of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association. No conflict of interest there.
So how do other doctors feel about this issue? Try asking one. I guarantee this is one of their top priorities regarding health care reform. DEFENSIVE MEDICINE IS REAL. As a Radiology resident I see extra, unnecessary studies on a daily basis. So far, the record is about $3,600 worth of unnecessary imaging studies in one hour. Research conducted and sponsored by the Massachusetts Medical Society in 2008, found that defensive medicine in the state of Massachusetts alone costs a minimum of $1.4 Billion annually. National costs put that number around $65 to $200 BILLION A YEAR (re-emphasizing that number for effect)!2 In South Florida, physicians live in unnecessary fear. We understand the gift and responsibility we undertake when we treat a patient, but everything we've worked so hard for and sacrificed so much for can be taken away overnight. All because of "Jackpot Justice." To avoid this nightmare scenario, it's easier to order extra tests "just to make sure," or "to defend ourselves in front a jury." This is wrong, wasteful and against our oath as physicians. Studies from opponents of tort reform try to demonstrate no financial impact of the "few" wasteful and illegitimate lawsuits, but we know the real data is not being captured. The data that is difficult to calculate because these so called "justified" tests can fall within a spectrum of treatment, but are unnecessary to patients' outcome. We have no doubt that curbing defensive medicine through LEGITIMATE tort reform will lead to substantial cost savings throughout the system.
Make no mistake, if tort reform is not part of the completed bill, we have all been duped by a political process that hasn't "Changed." Physicians understand this and will revolt. It is already starting. Please keep these thoughts in mind any time you discuss health care reform. Feel free to forward this email to anyone you want. I welcome debate on the issue.
Daryl Eber, M.D.
PGY 5, R4
1. Wikipedia 2009. 1 August 2009 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
2. Wikipedia 2008. 1 December 2008 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
3. Strassel, Kimberley . " The President's Tort Two-Step " Wall Street Journal 11September 2009 <http://online.wsj.com/
4. Sermo 2009. 9 September 2009 <http://www.sermo.com>.
5. Hypocrites, Democratic. H.R. 3200 - America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 1 August 2009 <http://www.opencongress.org/
XOXO Cancer Chick