“We have to tackle the model that has taken the pursuit of medicine from a profession — a calling — to a business. You didn’t enter this profession to become bean counters and paper pushers. You entered this profession to be healers. And that’s what our health care system should let you be.”
-President Barack Obama, addressing doctors at the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association,15th June 2009
By all accounts, many, including myself, will agree with the President on this. How often have we seen administrative paperwork eat into time that would be better spent looking after patients? And the preoccupation amongst some doctors in private practice to improve the financial bottom-line at all costs, sometimes at the expense of the patients’ well-being?
Somewhere in the middle of the President’s oration, however, boos erupted when he told doctors that he wouldn’t try to help them win their top priority – limits on jury damages in medical malpractice cases. What else could the President say? If he said otherwise, you can bet lawyers, trade unions and consumer groups would stand up in protest!
This is the problem with healthcare anywhere in the world – every stakeholder in the healthcare debate will have their own unique list of priorities. For instance, private insurance companies do not want competition from a government-funded single-payor financial scheme. Drug companies want to charge to the hilt to maximise profits. Hospitals want no more cuts from Medicare or any payor system. Employers want to minimise employee coverage and benefits. And the public of course demand universal access whatever the cost.
No leader, President Obama included, can give all of them what they want. In fact, leaders over the decades have been grappling on a tightrope as to how much to give to keep as many as possible happy, without alienating others.
Its not often that a President receives boos (from doctors at that!), but he has to be prepared for more as he tackles sensitive and dicey issues like healthcare..
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