Stage 2 Consequences

Much of what passes for legislation these days seems to be feelings based and reactionary. With litte time given to debate or deep thought. As long as it feels good there is no concern whether once implemented it will actually do good. The Affordable Care Act (Obmacare) is the penultimate example of stopping at stage 1 thinking. As Nancy Pelosi so famously said, "You will have to pass the bill to find out what is in it!" Well, think on this! I recently read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled, "The Doctor's Office as Union Shop" by Dr. David Leffell, a practicing physician and the former CEO of the Yale Medical Group and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. As you know me by now, I am a critical reader of opinion pieces and pretty much anything that passes as mainstream news these days. It is hard to know what to believe. I could not find any fault, however, in Dr. Leffell’s arguments about what is likely to happen to doctors in the wake of the government takeover of health care thus reducing the once proud sole proprietor into nothing more than a salaried service worker. If you have followed my blog for some time you will find that I am not a fan of the poorly named “Affordable Care Act” for a myriad of reasons. One of which has been the inevitable discouragement of the ambitious and brightest from undertaking the years of commitment and expense it takes to become a physician. Those young men and women who prefer to be shepherds of their destinies and not sheep will look to other opportunities. What will remain are dedicated workers who will prefer defined hours, a better lifestyle and the security of a set salary. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself it is like the proverbial finding of half a worm in an apple. For their employer will no longer be “the self” but will be the government or some big faceless corporate entity dependent on government rules and regulations that define treatment protocols and regulate reimbursement. Dr. Leffell says, “The truth is that physicians are now becoming service workers. They are well-educated and expensive to train, and their decisions have substantial significance in the lives of others. But doctors essentially provide a service, one that cannot be outsourced to India or China……When doctors occupy a service niche like the chambermaid in Las Vegas or the school teacher in Chicago, the expectations and compensation of the physician-worker will be defined in ways that may make the benefits of collective bargaining appear very attractive…… If doctors unionize, that raises an immediate question about their right to strike—the key lever in collective bargaining. That's a question for another day. For now, it's enough to contemplate what will occur when the practice of medicine becomes detached from its past as a profession—when doctors may in time come to see themselves not solely as healers but as workers, units of labor, in a system that is committed to delivering care to the greatest number.” It is inevitable then, as government inserts itself into the equation, that choice for consumers will decline and services will be rationed. Cost containment will fall heavily on doctors and hospitals. With no relief from threats of malpractice lawsuits and pressure to adhere to artificially set performance standards piled on top of less financial reward we will inevitably see rising job dissatisfaction. And although the expectations of Americans will be that they should get the same quality of care for less money in reality that is not possible. All the micromanaging and theories about efficiency do not take into account what happens in the real world. No longer individual professionals but now salaried workers, likely disgruntled salaried workers, what is to keep physicians from unionizing? Leaders of the dwindling private sector organized labor movement will drool at the prospect of a whole new profession to appeal to. As Dr. Leffell’s concludes: As has happened in other countries that have charted the course we are now on, a new reason for lack of access may at times be: "Office closed, doctors on strike." Dr. F