Published in the Orange County Register: April 17, 2014
Every day in my office it seems I am confronted with a government or insurance clerk telling me that he or she knows better about the treatment of my patient than I do. Too often my patient asks me what their insurer will “authorize.” I always answer, “Who cares?” Sadly, the government bureaucracy has instilled itself into the subconscious minds of Americans everywhere. Big brother is not just watching; he/she is indigenous, unseen and pervasive.
Government intrusion into our lives is more than about the poor judgment of unqualified clerks or administrative bureaucrats denying care.
A patient once asked if I would let him go home from the hospital a day early because he feared that Medicare would make him pay for his stay. He knew about the penalties the government imposed when they denied days in the hospital. And another patient did not see one of my obstetrics colleagues for a second evaluation because she “had heard” that she could only have one pap smear per year.
Furthermore, the news is filled with stories about “new” government guidelines. Most recently, the media featured a story with the punch line: Mammograms don’t save lives. But that is not news. They were not designed to save a life. Most women have a mammogram because she wants to “buy” reassurance that she doesn’t have cancer. But reassurance is personal and has no value to the government that wants to control your choices and diminish your expectations.
And it’s working. In some hospitals, no one is surprised by a 12-hour wait. We are also experiencing a scarcity of medications we use every day to save lives, like intravenous nitroglycerin. Doctors have hired staff just to take care of the administrative burden imposed on our offices. That is now a part of our fixed overhead. Expectations have changed. Lines are long. Life is expensive and resources are scarce.
Obamacare gave the uninsured the illusion that with a magic card bought with (other) Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars they can get health care for free. It’s not true. Our rudimentary need for self-determination must find its way into our hearts and souls. Truth is not optional.
Marcy Zwelling [is a] Long Beach resident and is a member of the American College of Private Physicians.