Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PHYSICIANS EMBRACE MR. OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE REFORM

Interesting article from the May 30 NYTimes about a change in physicians' political support--they favor the Democrats' health care reform.


"Doctors were once overwhelmingly male and usually owned their own practices. They generally favored lower taxes and regularly fought lawyers to restrict patient lawsuits. Ronald Reagan came to national political prominence in part by railing against “socialized medicine” on doctors’ behalf.



But doctors are changing. They are abandoning their own practices and taking salaried jobs in hospitals, particularly in the North, but increasingly in the South as well. Half of all younger doctors are women, and that share is likely to grow.

There are no national surveys that track doctors’ political leanings, but as more doctors move from business owner to shift worker, their historic alliance with the Republican Party is weakening from Maine as well as South Dakota, Arizona and Oregon, according to doctors’ advocates in those and other states.

That change could have a profound effect on the nation’s health care debate. Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama’s legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said.

Because so many doctors are no longer in business for themselves, many of the issues that were once priorities for doctors’ groups, like insurance reimbursement, have been displaced by public health and safety concerns, including mandatory seat belt use and chemicals in baby products.

Even the issue of liability, while still important to the A.M.A. and many of its state affiliates, is losing some of its unifying power because malpractice insurance is generally provided when doctors join hospital staffs.


“It was a comfortable fit 30 years ago representing physicians and being an active Republican,” said Gordon H. Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association. “The fit is considerably less comfortable today.”

Mr. Smith, 59, should know. The child of a prominent Republican family, he canvassed for Barry Goldwater in 1964, led the state’s Youth for Nixon and College Republicans chapters, served on the Republican National Committee and proudly called himself a Reagan Republican — one reason he got the job in 1979 representing the state’s doctors’ group.

But doctors in Maine have abandoned the ownership of practices en masse, and their politics and points of view have shifted dramatically. The Maine doctors’ group once opposed health insurance mandates because they increase costs to employers, but it now supports them, despite Republican opposition, because they help patients.


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change could have a profound effect on the nation’s health care debate. Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama’s legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said.


Because so many doctors are no longer in business for themselves, many of the issues that were once priorities for doctors’ groups, like insurance reimbursement, have been displaced by public health and safety concerns, including mandatory seat belt use and chemicals in baby products.

Even the issue of liability, while still important to the A.M.A. and many of its state affiliates, is losing some of its unifying power because malpractice insurance is generally provided when doctors join hospital staffs.


[SKIP]
 
Dr. Lee Thibodeau, 59, a neurosurgeon from Portland, still calls himself a conservative but says he has changed, too. He used to pay nearly $85,000 a year for malpractice insurance and was among the most politically active doctors in the state on the issue of liability. Then, in 2006, he sold his practice, took a job with a local health care system, stopped paying the insurance premiums and ended his advocacy on the issue.


“It’s not my priority anymore,” Dr. Thibodeau said. “I think Gordon and I are now fighting for all of the same things, and that’s to optimize the patient experience.”

Many of Mr. Smith’s counterparts in other states told similar stories of change.

“When I came here, it was an old boys’ club of conservative Republicans,” said Joanne K. Bryson, the executive director of the Oregon Medical Association since 2004.

Now her group lobbies for public health issues that it long ignored, like insurance coverage for people with disabilities.

Even in Texas, where three-quarters of doctors said last year that they opposed the new health law, doctors who did not have their own practices were twice as likely as those who owned a practice to support the overhaul, as were female doctors."

7 comments:

Charlene said...

I saw this article yesterday. It's a sign that there are progressive doctors who can see the way of future health care. I just hope their numbers continue to grow and lend their support to the plan.

Dave Miller said...

I predict we will soon be seeing people calling those doctors leftist socialist pigs...

It is the canned response to anyone who dare tries to think different than the orthodox positions of the day...

Witness that many of the GOP Presidential candidates, and indeed a large number of people in their party were for healthcare plans similar to the one passed before they were against it...

Romney, Gingrich, Pawlenty, etc...

Tim said...

My company is a medical device provider, and we are very excited about 30+ million Americans being added to the health insurance pool. More medical devices will be bought, and our business will thrive. I feel that what we are seeing here may be the death knell of the conservative movement. They have completely run out of any workable solutions and have sunk to nothing more than jingoistic slogans and name calling. I think that the people gave Republicans a chance to be constructive by giving them the House, but because they are behaving so stupidly by adopting anti-middle class positions (I. E. Ryan's colossally stupid Medicare "reform" plan).
The Republicans of today bear very little resemblance to those of 30 years ago, when I voted for some, and I really think that if they don't start tacking back to the center they will sail right off the political landscape.

Sue said...

last yr my doctor hated the new hc bill, I'll ask him again this yrs visit if he changed his mind.

I hope Tim is right about the conservatives demise...

Tim said...

Sue, I really am sad to see them just self destruct because it seems like whenever you have just one party controlling all branches of government they stop listening to the people and get too ideological. Having a loyal opposition is important. I just wonder if the Republicans will ever regain control of their party from these far right wing crazy people who seem hell bent on destroying every last bit of the social safety net to give yet another tax break to the rich.

Nance said...

When the President's HCR program was first offered, it was a little alarming to watch what seemed like all the power in the medical world line up in opposition--the AMA, BigPharma, The national hospital association, etc., etc. More, it just didn't make sense with so many doctors closing their practices and struggling to pay student loans. Doctors are a conservative bunch in that they don't like big change, but they seemed to be failing to take into account that the most dangerous change had already occurred and was working against them, that HCR offered a dignified alternative for doctor and patient.

I'm glad to see the demographics start to work to line things up a bit more rationally.

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