- - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This morning was glorious, as was yesterday morning. I was refreshed and blessed to operate on nine precious patients. One young man I have known since he first went into glasses in second grade, and when he starts Harvard Law School this August he will be glasses-free with excellent vision after his successful LASIK operation. His mother is my patient as well. I performed LASIK on another treasured patient back in 1999 and performed her cataract operation today, sixteen years later. I also operated on a patient whose husband I operated on last year; this dear couple and I have been through many years and four cataract operations together. My eighth patient has no medical insurance and was virtually blind because of her progressive cataracts. She cried when I told her the cost of my services. I asked, “Why? Is that too much?” She replied, “No, because it’s so good I can afford to pay for it myself. I can do it.” She cried harder at the post op exam for her first eye last week when she could see 20/20 without glasses, having been severely near-sighted her entire life. I can’t wait to see how happy she will be tomorrow. My last patient just lost her husband a few months ago and needs to see better now that she has to function independently, living on her own. I have known them for years as a couple and now her, going forward, solo. Each patient has a special story and a special relationship. I have patients who I see four generations of their family. I have patients who I have seen for over twenty years. I know them and trust them. They know me and trust me. We are a blessing to one another. The patient-physician relationship is like no other.

Before I specialized in ophthalmology and ophthalmic surgery, I graduated from college and then medical school, after which I took the Hippocratic Oath. Then I completed my internship in internal medicine, passed my boards, and became a licensed physician in the great state of Texas. This rigorous rite of passage is grueling and known to rare few. It is beyond description and can only be understood once it has been lived. After completing my residency I became board certified and spent five years on faculty at the medical school teaching medical students and residents and as director of the county ophthalmology clinic. A greatest joy of my life has been caring for tens of thousands of patients in private practice in my hometown for the past 20 years. I am privileged and humbled to be in their service.

My father is a wise physician who regards medicine as a noble profession, a calling and a privilege. I learned from him to listen to the patient intently and fully, and the patient will tell you their diagnosis; examine the patient completely, and you will confirm that diagnosis. You are a physician first, a specialist, a surgeon, second. In his path over the years, beyond all the eye diseases and injuries, I have diagnosed my patients with everything from diabetes and hypertension to brain tumors and aneurysms, thyroid disease and rheumatologic disease to infection to cancer, pregnancy and Parkinson’s to abuse and depression. One long-term patient told me I was the first to confront her about her classic signs and symptoms of depression, and that, most likely, that moment and referral for acute psychiatric care saved her from imminent suicide. I know them; I know when something is not right. We figure it out, and we fix it.

That’s why the evenings have become so horrifically hard, demoralizing and pitifully sad. I sit at my desk to do the chart work after clinic and get punched in the gut by the realities of Obamacare day after day. No, if you like your doctor, you can’t necessarily keep your doctor, and if you like your patients you most certainly can’t keep them — unless you do what the big boys say, big government and big insurance that is. Face it. They lied to us.

Here’s an excerpt from one classic requisite EHR (electronic health record) letter I just received from a colleague; the names have been changed for the sake of patient confidentiality:

“Dear Kristin: This is an update on Mr. John Doe. The following is a summary of my findings on 6/9/2015…Patient of Dr. Held for years, but now she is not taking his insurance. Send to Dr. X for care of glaucoma. Refer to Dr. X…Thank you again for allowing me to assist in the care of Mr. John Doe. Sincerely, JAB. Electronically signed by Joe A. Blow, MD.” Period.

I first saw my patient, Mr. Doe, and his wife in 1997. We have not only been through almost twenty years of medical, laser and surgical treatment together to save his vision, but we have dealt with diagnosing and seeking care for significant issues including stroke, dementia and the consequences of such that affect the health of the marriage and the spouse. They have my cellphone number. They have my trust. And now, they have a new doctor. It’s that easy. Ouch, it hurts.

The new system of government run medicine is perverse and dysfunctional. The patient-physician relationship has been sabotaged and replaced by the government-subject and insurance company- consumer relationship awash with massive rules, regulation, bureaucracy, waste, misinformation and fraud. I call one of the disastrous consequences “The Insurance Shuffle.” Every year patients are shuffled to new insurance companies whether it be by their employer, by the exchange, by their own attempt to seek lower premiums and deductibles, or whether they are forced on Medicaid or Medicare because of financial status, disability or age. Each year the “providers” for the various insurers change. So, effectively every year everyone gets shuffled to a new doctor. So, every year my patients are now someone else’s, and someone else’s are now mine. There is no continuity of care. There is no long-term relationship. It’s like a really shoddy, but really expensive online dating service. Many Medicare and Medicaid patients now can’t even find a new doctor. What a waste of time, resources and rationality. What a waste of money and lives.

So, I can sit here and sob, or I can seek a cure.

I choose to solve the problem by joining with like-minded, patient-loving, Hippocratic Oath-honoring physicians to create an alternate universe outside the insanity of Obamacare and an overbearing statist regime that values money, power and politics over the individual lives, health and well-being of Americans. Physicians must make a choice. Solve or sulk. Stand strong or surrender. Let’s join together to create a model for state-of-the-art, low cost medical care, occurring directly between the patient and doctor, third-party free. If the majority of doctors refuse to implement and comply with the Obamacare model that destroys the patient-physician relationship, and if our patients stand with us, we can do this right. We must stop enabling the implementation of socialized medicine and create the world where patients can get actual care from actual doctors instead of the false promises of phony coverage replete with restricted, regulated, rationed, expensive, impersonal government-dictated access to “eligible providers.” We must resist the tendency to sulk in the hopelessness of the current situation, instead we must act to change our circumstances. We must work together for good in hope and trust.

… in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning,” — Psalm 30:5.

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