June 5, 2009 By: Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq.
Few, if any, Americans outside the military and military veterans have had their choice of the source of medical care controlled or strongly influenced by the Federal Government. Personal economics, geographic availability or both sometimes have restricted choice. Likewise physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, psychologists and others in the very broadly defined overall health-care profession theoretically have not been controlled by the Federal Government although in actuality there has been a measure of control arising from Medicare and Medicaid allowances, fees and other parameters of control.
There is a real risk this will change, subjecting patients and those who care for them to Federal influence. As so often happens, once the proverbial camel of Federal intrusion pokes its head in the tent of patients' and providers' rights the camel can create undue damage - in this context control.
Health care has become more expensive. This was an inevitability. The evolution of expertise in the medical and related professions has been extraordinary. Longevity has maximized the first syllable of the noun: It has become long, the longest in history, and getting longer. Thus, the population percentage which is old - or, to use the gentle if a bit evasive adjective, senior - has increased and will increase. Among other consequences, the number of advanced, difficult and therefore expensive medical procedures used toward the closing of many lives has increased, as naturally have the costs.
Americans have benefitted from their right to choose a medical provider. Concomitantly, few, if any, physicians or other providers are compelled to perform abortions, to prescribe dangerous drug usage or otherwise to violate their morals. However, as anyone esoterically familiar with the costs of providing medical care can disclose, already bureaucratic costs - Medicare, Medicaid and insurance reimbursement - have increased the bill to the patient. There also is an extraordinarily high nongovernmental, nonmedical cost - namely, exorbitant insurance premiums. These are caused by the reckless so-called "trial lawyer" or "medical malpractice" bar, which is so adept at playing a sad plaintiff in front of a nobly sympathetic but medically and financially ignorant jury.
Congress may be compelled to focus upon the freedom of conscience aspect of medical care in the light of likely highly increasing Federal control. Senator Thomas Allen (Tom) Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) is noted for his courage and sometimes called "Senator No" (as a compliment or a condemnation, depending upon the political slant of the labeler). He has offered an amendment to the pending Budget Resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, to attempt to protect individual rights. The Coburn language explicitly would prohibit discrimination against a provider who upon moral or religious grounds declined participation in a medical, surgical or pharmaceutical act. Consistently the Coburn Amendment would forbid Federal or Federally-instigated coercion of patients to enroll in a particular insurance plan or to consult a pre-selected medical provider.
American medicine may be on the cliff of a Federally pushed shove into the pit of disintegration. How fortunate we are that there is a Senator from Oklahoma, himself both an M.D. and an experienced businessman, who has the conviction and is fearless in the courage to manifest that conviction.