Doctors Disappointed at Debate

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A fitting metaphor from a Doc who was there

m-koriwchakThanks to some undeserved serendipity I had the good fortune of being invited to last week’s live broadcast town hall debate on CNN between Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz regarding the future of Obamacare. I was offered the opportunity to appear in person to ask a question to the congressmen and spent many hours in communication with CNN producers to formulate a question acceptable to them.  Sadly the event ended in disappointment.  As the congressmen got long-winded and Senator Cruz had already spontaneously addressed the topic of my question, time ran out with my question unasked.  I have no ill feelings towards CNN over this.  Such is the nature of live events. 

Yet such an outcome is a fitting metaphor regarding the main problem with the narrative on health care reform.  My wife Amy said it first:  “This debate was no different from the ones we heard almost 10 years ago when Obamacare was first offered.”  She is absolutely right.  For decades we have heard – from both sides of the aisle – the same tired arguments from people who have never touched a patient and have no understanding of how health care should work.  There was nothing new offered Tuesday night.  On the Democratic side we heard that because health care is a right the government should provide “Medicare for all.”  On the Republican side we heard there is no way to finance such a big plan and that the government needs to get out of health care.  Familiar scapegoats – pharmaceutical companies and insurers – were dragged out with torches and pitchforks.  Both sides fight the war from the same trenches that were dug ages ago.  On Tuesday night no new hearts and minds were won for either side.

It is also fitting that the one opportunity to bring new life to the discussion – to bring physicians into the conversation – was turned away.  The one group who lives and breathes health care every day was ignored – as it has been for decades.  To be fair, some of the blame lies with us physicians – in the past we have as a general rule been averse to carrying our Hippocratic Oath beyond the clinic and the operating room.  But over the last several years that has changed.

Tuesday night’s debate may not have been the right time to engage.  We did not have as much time to prepare as we would have liked, and the exact rules of engagement were not clear.  But even with such apparent misfires we gain knowledge and wisdom.

The right moment to engage will come.  And we will be ready.

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