When Should Politics Stand in the Way of Healthcare?

Paul Meade, M.Sc., MPH

Well, there’s an easy answer: NEVER! I could stop there and be content with “enough said,” but I would like to expand on my concerns for a minute. The Obama administration has made some noble attempts at healthcare reform, and they made some small gains despite the need for a “major” overhaul in healthcare delivery in the United States. By the time the bill was passed, many argued it had become too watered-down to pass the House and Senate. In the end, the victories were small in relative comparison to what was truly needed to get healthcare back on track in this country.

Now, this new healthcare law has become a political ping-pong ball for grandstanding antics among politicians in Washington. When did “We the People” become “Me the Politician?” Elected officials are supposed to represent their constituents, not their self-interests for their own political survival.

What would be in the best interests of the American people with regard to healthcare? Most Americans want access to affordable and effective healthcare. Much like the tagline seen at Target stores–“expect more; pay less”–that’s what we all want. Do we want to be constrained by our healthcare insurance to lifetime limits? Do we want to be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions? Do we want to continue to pay more and more for less and less? Of course not! Then why are some politicians attempting to undo everything that this new law is trying to accomplish for the American public, including protections from all of the above limitations and practices?

Take, for example, the case of the prominent vascular physician from South Carolina, Dr. David Cull, who has invented a device for patients undergoing dialysis.  Dr. Cull’s device could ultimately save the government billions of dollars and prevent countless hours of unnecessary patient suffering. Seeking support from his elected representative, Senator Jim DeMint, for federal grant funding under the new healthcare law to develop this invention, Senator DeMint refused to write a supporting letter because it ran counter to his campaign to repeal the law and make this act Obama’s “Waterloo.”

Let me see now–this device could save the government billions of dollars (through savings in Medicaid and Medicare expenditures) in healthcare costs, and would be a boon to patients suffering from complications of currently available technology, but because a person would like to “bring down the Act” for what may appear as a personal agenda, Dr. Cull must seek funding elsewhere. Has American politics taken a wrong turn somewhere? This issue has nothing to do with being a Democrat or Republican–it has everything to do with doing what is right for the American public. When the health of the nation is impeded by the political system for personal self-interests and preservation, we have lost our way.

Let’s all get back to “We the People” and fight for doing right by doctors and patients. Never let politics stand in the way of healthcare!

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