(Written in the Honor and Spirit of one of my mentors, the late, great Professor of Dermatopathology, A. Bernard Ackerman, M.D.)
All of the statements below are factual. The situations have been witnessed by others, or taped, or have been relayed on several occasions to others.
1. John McCain - “Doctors Make Too Much Money”
The year: 1984. The Reagan Administration is at the helm. I learn that the newly instituted Prospective Payment System (“DRG’s”), which pays hospitals a flat fee based on the admitting diagnosis of a Medicare patient, irrespective of length of stay or intensity of service, is creating significant problems with respect to proper medical care. A physician tells me he fears a patient died due to these novel cost control measures. I learn of a woman who cannot walk across her hospital room because she has not been provided with the oxygen she requires.
The Maricopa County Medical Journal, Roundup, mentions John McCain, saying he is a “friend” of Medicine.
In my untutored, apolitical, naïve state, I decide to alert this man to a problem I fear he does not - could not - know exists. (After all, I still believe the Government is here to help us.) Learning that McCain will speak at an open public forum at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, I make my first foray into the public arena. Sitting on the balcony, one of my Medicare patients at my side, I express my concerns about the deteriorating care caused by this novel rationed payment system (for hospitals - NOT doctors) known as DRG’s.
After I speak my piece, the first words out of McCain’s mouth are these:
Out of Control Medical costs are “all doctors’ fault.” ‘Medical care is chewing up a larger and larger percentage of the national budget, hampering our competitiveness as a nation.’ He says ‘we need to solve the problem.’
I rebut, telling him I agree that we have to help control costs, which is why, from my first day in practice, I have told patients who inform me of a financial problem, to “pay what they can afford” of my fee.
The red-faced McCain shrinks one foot on stage. People ask me for my card when the meeting ends. Shocked and surprised by McCain’s unexpected vitriol, I plan a speech to the hospital staff, imploring them not to join the Health Plans that are just beginning to inundate Arizona. My ‘mission’ begins.
2. Rep. Fortney Stark - “How do You Recognize a Congressman?”
(Congress’ Dirty Laundry)
Circa 1984, a group called “Physicians Who Care” decided to ‘go national’ in its efforts to inform the public about the threat to Health Care posed by HMO’s (a creature of the Nixon Administration). The President, V.P., and I had a chance to meet a few Senators and Congressmen at that time, to discuss our concerns about the future of the Medical profession. One of those to whom we spoke was ‘Pete’ Stark. Then, as now, he chaired the Subcommittee on Health of House Ways and Means.
Seated in the bowels of Congress, across a cafeteria table from him, all of us dressed in dark blue suits, Stark interrupted our most serious conversation by asking, with a broad smile on his face, “Do you know how to recognize a Politician?”
“A Politician,” he went on to explain, smiling all the while, “is someone who can smile and F@*T at the same time.”
At that precise moment I knew our efforts on Capitol Hill were futile.
3. Stephen Webster, M.D. (Past Pres., & Gold Medal recipient, of the AAD):
"That is Unethical, and I would Never Do That.”
(I have relayed the following incident to several past Presidents of the AAD...)
Years ago, when Stephen Webster was President of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Feds had just insisted that all physicians bill Medicare, even if they had not 'signed on' with the Medicare program. (Fee controls, DRG's , etc., were already in place.) By pure chance I met Dr. Webster on the street during the annual AAD convention. I told him that I thought we should resist government control, suggesting that doctors NOT submit any bills for their Medicare patients, telling those patients to 'pay what they could afford' even if that meant nothing. He encouraged me to attend the AAD Board meeting in order to present this idea, adding, “the Board needs to hear this.”
Another colleague on the Board (who was fond of boasting of his pursuit of ex-Nazis) told me the same thing when I discussed this idea - and Webster’s encouragement - with him.
The following day, at the Board meeting, I did exactly as Dr. Webster had suggested. He suddenly shot up out of his chair, pompously saying, “That is unethical, and I would never do that!”
I was not only blind sided, but so embarrassed and taken aback I was speechless and red-faced as I sat in front of the Board. My other 'colleague' was silent. He did not back me up, but at least he had not acted like a two-faced Janus.
I have little faith that things will get better with the likes of politically motivated people like Dr. Webster at the helm. [He has also played a role in the development of MOC by the AAD (see previous Blog).]
Years later, I walked out of an AAD business meeting when Webster was presented with a Gold Medal on behalf of the American Academy of Dermatology.
4. John Conyers - “Teabaggers”
Conyers, on tape, used the term “Teabaggers’ to describe Tea Party Activists. I am sure he is quite knowledgeable, and knows the definition of this very derogatory term. On this same tape, he also stated that these “Teabaggers’ are a very angry lot, and anger ‘can make one mentally imbalanced.’
If that is the case, sir, then you need to realize you have had a lot of very angry doctors ‘out there’ for quite some time. You, those in your Party, and those in the media who enjoy using this word, WHO TRY TO LAY CLAIM TO FAIRNESS, TOLERANCE, EMPATHY and SOCIAL JUSTICE, have just proven yourselves to be utter hypocrites by using such derogatory (and dare I say biased?) terminology in public.
If you are worried about YOUR health, you might just think about being concerned about the health and well being of physicians. All of us are patients from time to time - EVEN Congressmen - and EVEN those Congressmen who exempted themselves from the Obama Health Care Plan.
(By the way, where is the Outrage from the Gay community? Correct - there has been none.)
5. Medicare Patient (who travels to Germany for Cancer treatment): ‘REDISTRIBUTION OF HEALTH’
Defined by her as rationing care by giving it to those who have never paid into Medicare, after she has done so for many years.
6. Robin Hood – “Steals from the Rich, Gives to the Poor”
Hey, I’ve got News for you, Greenie! Stealing, from Rich or Poor, is STILL a CRIME!
Too bad Congress gets away with it all the time.
7. Nancy Pelosi – “Astro Turf”
Nancy, you’ve stepped on us once too often. We are about to KICK some GRASS!
Joseph M. Scherzer, M.D., Fellow, American Academy of Dermatology,
Board Certified in Dermatology, with Special Certification in Dermatopathology