The Washington Times - June 15, 2009, 12:46PM


“Government is not the doctor. It is the disease.” - H.S. Ferns


President Obama’s meeting today with the American Medical Association (AMA) amplifies what I pointed out in my previous post addressing the government health care debate. Doctors (inevitably patients) are getting short shrift in what’s being proposed by the administration. They’re being driven into mandates and away from an environment that cultivates the best and brightest. How that impacts patients is paramount. Instead of your doctor determining your best course of treatment, the government will. And those deemed not treatable or have a loosely defined “poor quality of life” (i.e. the elderly, terminal cancer patients) would be denied treatment or placed on a waiting list behind those viably worth saving, in hoping that they don’t die before the government prescribed doctor gets around to treating them.

The scarcity of specialists, medical malpractice limits and pay scales set by the government based on the current Medicare system also have physicians balking, as media outlets FOX News and The Washington Times report today.

Politically speaking, Republican lawmakers aren’t the only ones fuming (from concerns about wasteful spending to too many mandates), some congressional Democrats have also raised questions with the president’s program. It’s one reason why he’s had to take his show on the road, attempting to sell it to the public and the doctors who despise it. By most accounts, the president doesn’t have the support or votes needed right now. With good reason.

One politician who also happens to be a doctor and AMA member, is congressman Tom Price (R)-Georgia. Hosting a conference call from the AMA conference in Chicago today, Price called government mandates a “bad idea” because they hinder robust choice and innovation in health care. The doctor-turned-congressman also expressed “major concerns” the AMA has with quality care and:

“Government takeover of those decisions.”

Price also points out that the President’s newly formed 15-member Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, designed to “improve care for all Americans,” does not have a single “acting” physician on the board (several do have M.D. behind their names however). These are folks who will be making decisions and recommendations to Congress about cost effectiveness and ways to “improve performance of the U.S. health care system.” (It might come in handy to have a working doc weigh in on something as huge as this.) Addressing the “cost” and “savings” portion of his plan this week, Mr. Obama said:

“I’m working with Congress to pass reform that lowers costs, improves quality and coverage, and protects consumer health care choices.”

Yet, the problem with “quality” is a question of just who’s deciding who’s quality of life is more cost effective than the other’s. It’s a decision doctors say shouldn’t be in the hands of Congress. I’m guessing most Americans would agree.

-Tara Wall is a news anchor and political analyst at The Washington Times and editor of