Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Struggle to be Heard about Health Reform

I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.

William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879

William Lloyd Garrison was a journalist, abolitionist, and social reformer. His mission was to emancipate the slaves and to free up people to speak their minds.

Today Garrison would be a passionate spokesperson for health reform. Americans, particularly patients and doctors, are feeling enslaved by government, health plans, the media, and other members of the reigning establishment.

People are mad as hell, as reflected in national poll averages indicating 64% disapprove of Congress and 54% say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

In a book just on the market, What Americans Really Want, pollster and communication expert, Frank Luntz, a University of Pennsylvania and Oxford graduate, says people want to be heard. They are finally being heard, he says, through town hall meetings , tea parties gatherings, and massive marches on Washington by the public and the medical profession.

The masses, at least those in the center, being heard is a good thing. It tells us what concerns ordinary Americans. Among other things, according to Luntz, the center is sending these messages, “All we want is to improve our economy. It’s not about health care or nuclear weapons, it’s about jobs.” To the Republicans he says, “No is not the answer.” To the Democrats, he says, “You can’t get it all in one year.” To all, he says, it’s about the freedom to make your frustrations known.

Health reform bills now percolating through Congress treat doctors as political nobodies. The bills fail to address tort reform, they either ignore or suppress the strengths of consumer-driven care, they play down the importance of health savings accounts, they do not seem to want to tell people what things really cost, they over-stress unproven savings from EMRs, they treat physicians as government surrogates. and they seek to pay doctors as Medicare and Medicaid rates, which doctors say would drive about 45% of doctors out of practice.

Doctors and patients are struggling to be heard. It is not easy. President Obama dominates the media, and it is hard to break through. If you have a dissenting point of view and you write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, your chances of being published are miniscule. I know. I have tried on countless occasions. The liberal media filter is very effective. A recent study indicated the Times referred to liberal blogs 389 times and conservative blogs 18 times. The other side may be equally biased and filtered. Small wonder that talk radio, cable TV, and bloggers to the left and right chatter – and sometimes even matter.

Up until recently, when the voices of August boomed out and began to be heard, public frustrations were kept at bay. Those days are gone. The public is now engaged. The central issues are freedom.

• to speak your mind

• to choose your doctor or hospital

• to have access to care no matter what your age

• to select your own policy no matter who employs you or in what you state you live

• to have a policy that fits your individual needs rather than those of the community at large

• to have a policy regardless of your pre-existing condition

• to retain a policy regardless of expenses of your disease

• to have health-related deductions whether you are in individual, entrepreneur, or an employee of small or large business

• to have the same plans and benefits that federal employees and Congress members enjoy in the Federal Employee Benefits Program, now 49 years in operation and with the choice of 278 separate plans

• to interact with your doctor without fear of federal intervention into the process.

Dr. Richard Reece’s latest book, Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform ( is available at,, and for $31.95 (hardcover), $21.95 (softcover), and $6.95 (electronic)


Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Tort reform? In your dreams. Not with this president or this congress. Even Bush couldn't get it through and he had a GOP majority. What other profession endures a system as oppressive and unfair as the current medical malpractice system? What if lawyers feared a lawsuit every time they lost a case? See under Legal Quality category.

Richard L. Reece, MD said...


You are right, of course. The American Trial Lawyers have a stranglehold on the Democrats, thanks to their lavish campaign financing.

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