I am no prop; doctors are on the frontlines in the healthcare debate
This past Monday, I had the pleasure of being invited to the White House to talk about health reform. While shaking hands with the president in the Rose Garden is an honor, I did not come for him - I came for my patients. Too often I have seen care delayed or missed because of the obstacles parents face in our current system. We cannot wait any longer for health reform, it is needed this year.
A couple of months ago, while working in a free clinic I saw an uninsured teenage girl. A few weeks prior she had fallen, injuring her leg. What started as a cut was now oozing and causing her to walk with a limp. When I asked her mother why she did not take her to the local ER, she said that she could not afford the cost. Because she had no insurance, and her care was delayed, she now had a deep infection. What could have been treated with local wound care now needed systemic antibiotics. If left untreated, it would have invaded her bone.Fox News dismissed me and the other doctors at the White House as props with the headline, “Docs As Props.” I am no prop - I am on the frontlines. As a pediatric resident, I have held parents hands as their children have died in the intensive care unit and spent countless nights away from my family to do what I love - taking care of children. All that I want to do is work in a health system that treats them all fairly. To call me a prop is beyond insulting, it is also untrue.
In the Rose Garden supporting the president in his health reform efforts were physicians from all 50 states as well as leaders from organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. We are not alone in supporting health reform.
A recent poll which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a majority of physicians support health reform. Leaders from both parties, including former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Bob Dole and Bush Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson support health reform. This is not a partisan issue - there is broad support for health reform this year.
There are over 46 million uninsured people in the United States - including 7 million children. An additional 25 million adults are underinsured. They are more likely to delay or not receive needed medical care - like my patient, they become sicker and require more expensive treatment.
We spend over $2 trillion on healthcare each year - far more than any other country. We have the resources to ensure coverage for everyone.
The current legislation in the House and Senate goes a long way to make fundamental changes to our health system to make it more equitable and cost-effective. We have never been this close to fundamental reform of our heath system. If we let this opportunity pass us by, more people will become uninsured and healthcare costs will just increase.
As a physician, I took an oath to “do no harm.” It is our health system that is now doing the harm and it must change - our children deserve better.