By Birdstrike M.D.
Once again, our upcoming election will have great impact on future health care policy. Obamacare will either be kept intact, repealed or altered. This will have great impact on patients, physicians in general, and especially Emergency Physicians. By whom they choose to lead us, the electorate will decide whether treatments are rationed or not, and if so, to what extent, by whom and on what basis. They will decide whether doctors are free to choose what tests to order, and if so which ones, how many and for what reasons. Also, they will influence physician salaries, by choosing the leaders who will determine Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, which generally lead with reimbursement cuts that private insurers follow. Our electorate will determine our malpractice liability by choosing our leaders who will either, strengthen, weaken or ignore tort reform. They will influence which charting systems we are required, or not required to use, given that Obamacare has already written into law penalties for failure to implement electronic health record use. By whom they choose to lead us, the electorate will influence how much we are, or are not burdened by regulations, and whether these regulations will be logic based, or cumbersome and irrational.
The choice of the electorate will affect which pay for performance measures we and our salaries are subject to. Likely, they will also influence which form of patient satisfaction surveys we are or are not subject to. Also influenced, will be our overall workload depending on whether patients are adequately insured, by which doctors and in which settings. This will influence who is most, or the least burdened by the overall shortage of healthcare providers, and whether or not the millions of newly insured will end up in primary care physicians’ offices, shunted to emergency departments with growing wait times, seen in specialists’ offices or remain uncared for. How informed, or uninformed our electorate is, particularly as it relates to health care policy, will affect the health of our patients, our livelihoods as physicians, not to mention the health of our families and ourselves as patients.
Since the end our nation’s two major party conventions, it caught the attention of several major news organizations that on any given night of the week of either the Republican or Democratic National Conventions, that both parties faced stiff competition for viewers from the new and controversial TV show on TLC called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which TLC describes on its website as a show where a “six-year-old pageant sensation proves that she is more than just a beauty queen.” As said by the child’s own mother, June Shannon on ABC News, “We are a little redneckish, and we live in Georgia and that’s what people do in the country — get muddy and have fun with the family.” In the first episode they take part in the “Redneck Games,” bob for pigs feet and take part in a “mud pit belly flop.” Although fortunately the overall viewership of the conventions was greater according to ABC News, this show did draw more viewers than Fox News’s coverage of the Republican National Convention on at least one night and tied the ratings of the Democratic National Convention during Bill Clinton’s speech. Does anyone know where Honey Boo Boo stands on health care?
Apparently, a large part of our electorate would prefer to watch a show like TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” over either convention. Whether this is more of a reflection on our political parties, our electorate, our “Democracy” or (hopefully) none of the above, I am not sure. However, two months before an election where we will choose a President, seat our entire House of Representative and 1/3 of the U.S. Senate, that will have a huge impact on future health care policy, I think it is worth discussing how informed or uninformed, and how engaged or apathetic our electorate is about the health care issues at hand. Their decision will affect our patients, our health, our work environments, our salaries, and countless details of our health care system going forward. It is our responsibility as physicians to educate the public on this part of their vote and its potential consequences.
Have we done our job as physicians to educate our patients, friends and co-workers on the issues at hand and how important this election is? Have we come to grip ourselves, with how much this current election will affect the lives of our patients, our families, as well as every aspect of our profession? If the answer to either question is no, then between now and Tuesday, November 6th 2012, we have a lot of work to do.
Which did you watch, the Republican Convention, Democratic Convention, or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”?