by Lee Kurisko, MD
I am embarrassed to admit that I am a member of the Minnesota Medical Association. In my defense, I am automatically a member through my employer, a large radiology group based in Minneapolis.
I have long had my doubts that the MMA had my interests at heart. That was confirmed when they supported Obamacare, or as Dr. Keith Smith calls it, “The Unaffordable Care Act”. My lack of confidence in the MMA was again last week when they presented a forum at the University of Minnesota on Single Payer Healthcare.
The supposed mandate of the forum was to present both the pros and cons of such a system. There were three speakers that were all explicitly or implicitly in favor of single payer healthcare. The opposing view was not presented. At the end of the event, I approached the moderator of the event and president of MMA, Dr. Cindy Smith, and pointed out that only one viewpoint was presented and I questioned why. She mumbled something about not knowing whom to approach to fulfill such a role. Clearly they did not look too hard. I have been a member for 12 years and have given dozens of presentations and radio interviews about this very topic.
If one were to attend a meeting of Physicians for a National Health Program, you would not expect to have me as a speaker, being a rabid opponent of government medicine. Likewise, you would not expect to hear about the supposed virtues of socialized medicine at a meeting of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a staunchly conservative pro-free market physician organization, but the MMA presumably represents all of its physician membership. Being a state medical association and promoting this event as a forum of discussion, it is reasonable to assume that various views would be heard. It makes one wonder, does the MMA actually represent Minnesota physicians at large or does the leadership of the MMA have its own agenda?
My time at the meeting was not a complete waste. I listened to the arguments for single payer intently. I have heard them all before and they are specious, but it was illuminating to see how compelling their arguments would seem to the uninitiated. The information presented to make their case was factual, but it was out of context and incomplete. For example, indeed Canadian physicians do spend far less time on billing paperwork than American physicians, but it was not mentioned that being a monopoly payer, the Canadian provincial governments can utilize Draconian methods to balance the books like retroactively and unilaterally changing the fee schedule demanding physicians pay money back that they had justly earned. Using the force of government, care is rationed and resources are intentionally limited and waiting lists for service can stretch out for weeks, months and even years!
The provincial government of Quebec pays older physicians to retire, even in the presence of a physician shortage, seeing doctors as cost centers for the system doing things like ordering tests, hospitalizing patients, and generally doing the things that physicians are supposed to do to care for patients.
It is not unheard of for emergency departments in Canada to go unstaffed with physicians because the doctor shortage is so severe that there may simply be none available. The physician shortage was engineered by government to limit costs. In the1990’s, the federally-commissioned Barer Stoddart report concluded that the best way to limit escalating health care costs was to limit the number of physicians.
In Quebec in the summer of 2004, there was a highly publicized death when a patient had a heart attack and there was no physician available to care for him. The provincial minister of health declared martial law on doctors decreeing that they will work when and where they are told. It was not unheard of for doctors to complete a 12-hour ER shift and then be delivered a court order compelling them to work again in the next eight hours at a facility 300 miles away or incur a $5000 dollar fine. Ayn Rand’s phrase, “enslavement of the medical profession”, is not hyperbole. Would you want your doctor caring for you at the point of a government gun? Thankfully, the Quebec doctors challenged this in court and won.
Indeed there is far more to the story about single payer than its Utopian vision of “healthcare for all”. I could go on and on. I could write a book on it. In fact, I did. In “Health Reform – The End of the American Revolution?” I document the horrors of government medicine and how it threatens to undermine the very fabric of American society that was originally based upon the rugged individualist values of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, not entitlement and enslavement. But of course, the Minnesota Medical Association has no interest in such concerns for their “balanced” forum on the issue of single payer healthcare.
Lee Kurisko, MD is Chief Medical Officer of MediBid. He is trained as a family physician, radiologist, and neuroradiologist. He is author of “Health Reform-The End of the American Revolution?” He is now pursuing Board Certification in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.” His blogposts on health and fitness can now be seen at www.healthandfitnessdoctor.com.