Social Media Notebook - Let's Talk! Putting Aside the Animosity over the New Health Insurance Law

MDNG Primary Care, April 2010, Volume 11, Issue 4

How can we have a real conversation about healthcare reform and other contentious issues without letting anger and frustration stop us from communicating?

The healthcare insurance bill has finally been signed into law. Some feel this moment was “historic,” a true time to celebrate. Others feel this whole experience has revealed that our government clearly is not representing the will and the needs of its people. Still others are truly unsure what to believe. Are people reacting because they fear change or are they reacting to a flaw in the law itself? That’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? Our citizenry‑‑including healthcare professionals‑‑is basically divided right down the middle on this important issue.

The debate over the merits of this law began before the ink was dry on President Obama’s signature. People are not merely disagreeing with each other over this law, though‑‑they are having all-out verbal wars. Too many people don’t want to discuss their views with each other; they just want to have the other people agree with their position. All of this harsh rhetoric, invective, and name calling are telltale cues that people are scared and uncertain about whether they are supporting the right team. Instead of engaging in such unhealthy discourse, I contend we should respect each others’ varying opinions and points of view and simply agree to disagree.

Our backgrounds as professionals and patients are what make us who we are, and if we learn to listen carefully to people who have different experiences, we’ll have more points of reference to use to judge not just the merits of this law, but also identify changes we should make—issues we can bring to the attention of our elected representatives.

Overwhelming the system

Let me share with you my background as an example. As a pediatrician, I’m conceptually in favor of a plan that insures children and families in need. However, insuring those people without stipulations for who will care for them is a disaster in the making. We already have a shortage of primary care physicians, which includes pediatricians. Overloading the system with more insured patients without improving compensation plans for the already overwhelmed PCPs is going to hasten physician burnout until we can somehow increase the PCP work force.

Second, with more kids insured comes more ER visits. We all know the emergency rooms coast to coast are already overloaded with long wait times. More people per ER won’t improve that situation (in fact, it’s predicted to worsen the situation by 10%).

As a patient with a chronic condition, I’ve faced steep co-pays of over $200 per month, refusals to pay for needed medications and therapies, long waits for specialists, and even an inability to get in to see the specialist I needed to all, because of insurance. The current law doesn’t address any of these issues one bit. Shouldn’t a good law uphold the needs of all Americans? This law falls short for too many important groups in too many ways for my comfort level.

Open discourse is healthy, but debate with deaf ears is dangerous. It’s by learning to truly listen to one another free of judgment that true solutions for change will emerge. I’d love nothing more than to experience that day, because I have a hunch that will be the day we discover how to talk about real healthcare system reform without politicizing it. I’m game… how about you?