05 October 2009

National Grand Rounds

Today at noon the National Physicians Alliance Foundation and the American Medical Students Association held a National Grand Rounds policy panel discussion on the current legislation on health care reform. There were three panelists: one from the House, one from the Senate and one from Health and Human Services. The questions were relatively predictable, centering on access to primary care, the public option, tort reform and quality of care. The answers were similarly predictable: sound bites encapsulating pretty much what we want to hear and how historic this whole endeavor is. Pleasantly vague and bland, with little actual substance.

I would really like to see some of the legislators being honest about some of the real, and short-term unsolvable problems we're facing. How do we increase the number of primary care physicians to what we need when there aren't enough doctors going through school? How are we going to decide what medications and procedures are covered under the new insurance? How are we going to reduce the paperwork burden? How are we going to pay to insure/care for all these new people - most of whom cannot pay themselves? Because let's be honest, there will be a physician shortage in the short term and ERs will get even more crowded. We won't be able to cover everything for everyone. All these new committees and program will produce bureaucracy and without some planning, that will fall on docs and hospitals. And we don't have the money to cover all this new healthcare - either taxes will need to go up or spending will need to be cut. Public hospitals will need cash from the government to cover the services they have to provide to the population. Those are just realities.

The panelists all indicated in their introductions that their comments were off the record for any press attending, so it would have been nice if they had actually said something.

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