In what was billed as doctors trekking across the country to enthusiastically support President Barrack Obama’s health care agenda, his press conference at the White House on Monday was in need of serious resuscitation.
From a lackluster response among the 150 doctors (outfitted in their “spiffy-looking” white coats lest we forgot who they were) at the event to Obama’s same go-to talking points to justify massive federal spending and Washington control of health care, it’s hard to understand how this conference added any value or differentiation from the dozens of other talks the President has given on his health reform push.
“We have now been debating the issue of health insurance reform for months,” Obama said during his quick press conference, which lasted roughly 9 minutes and didn’t include any comments from the visiting doctors or questions from the press. “At this point, we’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle. We’ve listened to every charge and every counter charge.”
If that’s the case, the Obama administration has likely read the latest opposition from physicians who aren’t lock-step in agreement with the current health reform.
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Drs. Donald Palsimano, William Plested II and Daniel Johnson Jr. — all former American Medical Association presidents who weren’t invited to the press conference — in a Wall Street Journal editorial urged Obama and Congress to scrap any idea of a government-run health care plan through a public option or co-op and instead focus on incentives that would foster more of a consumer-driven health system. “One easy reform would be to enable individuals to buy policies offered in any state, not just where they live. This will enhance competition. But more government-run health insurance will only lead to disaster,” the doctors wrote.
Dr. Eric Novack said he was invited to the invite but declined, given his efforts to block any mandates in the health reform that would require consumers to buy health insurance, according to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. “I would certainly not be considered a supporter of the current bills that are being discussed by the leadership,” he said.
While Obama scored some applause for his plans to add more regulation on insurers and changing payment formulas for Medicare, doctors were surprisingly quiet when he mentioned that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had been directed to run medical malpractice demonstrations in response to physician demands for malpractice lawsuit reform.
That could be, as Heritage analyst Randolph Pate has pointed out , because: “Upon analysis, however, the President’s medical malpractice proposal is meaningless in the context of the health reform debate and does not affect the trajectory of Democrat health care reform bills currently before Congress in any way.”
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Obama rightly claims that physicians are among the most credible stakeholders in the health care debate. They know the system best and can offer valuable feedback in how to effectively improve it. However, physicians are right to stand up and be concerned about how reform would impact their profession and relationship with their patients — a side effect that many fear will drive doctors out of practicing medicine for good.