Much of Politics Is Personal Finance

Physician's Money Digest, April 2007, Volume 14, Issue 4

Friends, the reason I bring up thecontroversial subject of politicsis that we are entering one of theearliest presidential campaigns ever,and health care appears to be high onthe agenda. Being physicians as well ascitizens, we should be aware of the followingways our personal financeswill be affected:

Five Major Concerns

The first area of concern for ourpersonal finances involves our primaryrole as taxpayers. Washington is nowworking to extend and change the taxadvantages to deductible insurancepremiums traditionally available onlythrough employers. That means wemight personally be impacted throughthe taxes we have to pay and the taxdeductions we won't be able to take.

The second concern is as employerswho have felt the financial responsibilityof arranging health insurance coveragefor our employees. Particularlyover the past decade, this coverage hasbecome, as for most businesses, anunreasonably large percentage of ouroverhead. So, as employers, we have astake in the outcome of the healthinsurance debate.

Our third concern is about anyreorganization of the health care paymentstructure. This is, of course,where we get our earnings. We alsoneed to be careful about watching ourpersonal cash registers in any proposedchange to the struggling healthcare system.

The fourth aspect of our personalfinancial stake in tax-related healthcare changes is that of consumers, forwe too are patients from time to time.

The last, and unique, health caresector concern that we have is that we,as a profession, have taken an oath toput the welfare of our patients first.We should be careful only to supportpolitical changes that will allow improvedpatient care. Ideally, if we'recareful, what's good for our patientscould also be good for us.

What's Good for All

Think about it. Our well-being andour patients' well-being are directlyrelated. Take the one example ofexpanded access to health care. Moreinsurance means more access; moreaccess means more patients, morenewly addressed problems, more service,more cash flow, more profit, etc.This could be a win-win situation forour patients and for us. But morepaperwork and regulation will certainlybe attached so we've got to bealert and involved.

The health care debate developingin this particularly long and crowdedpresidential race—that is starting soearly this election cycle—will affectpracticing doctors' personal financepotentially in all five of these ways. Sowhatever our individual politicalviews and affiliations, we all can usewhat Dan Rather used to say when hesigned off of the CBS evening news:"Courage?."