Poll: Tennesseans favor Kerry on Healthcare


 .. and Bush overall … according to this poll


But Tennesseans not all that issue savvy

Despite the impression the above findings might give, a close look at five domestic agenda items suggests that Tennesseans as a group hardly qualify as well-informed, ideologically consistent policy wonks. For example, only about half of Tennessee adults can accurately name Kerry as the candidate who supports rescinding the recent federal income tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year. About a quarter (23%) incorrectly attributed the proposal to Bush, and 27% admit they don't know which candidate supports the measure. Similarly, only about half (50%) rightly name Bush as the candidate who favors giving parents tax-funded vouchers to help pay private or religious school tuition. Thirteen percent attribute the plan to Kerry, who actually opposes it. Over a third (37%) admit they don't know.

Knowledge levels are even lower on the other three issues. Well under half (42%) are aware that Bush wants to let younger workers put some of their Social Security withholdings into their own personal retirement accounts. Nineteen percent incorrectly think Kerry supports the measure, and 40% say they don't know one way or the other. Just over a quarter (28%) rightly name Bush as the candidate who supports giving needy people tax breaks that would help buy health insurance from private companies. Thirty percent inaccurately name Kerry as the measure's proponent, and 41% admit not knowing. Finally, just 39% know that Kerry advocates requiring plants and factories to add new pollution control equipment when they make upgrades. Fifteen percent wrongly attribute the policy to Bush, and 45% don't know.

So goes another non-medical post.  My second in as many weeks.   … now back to your regular programming .. already in progress…

Primary Care jobs?

A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure mentions a Medical Economics article about jobs in primary care, and how Internists are (in some markets) in greater demand than family physicians. Hospital systems greater interest in Internists"… is partly a byproduct of employers' current focus on recruiting specialists" according to one of the recruiters quoted in the MedEc article.

Well .. we family physicians can be a bit .. uh .. thin-skinned about this sort of stuff, so please forgive me if I seem a bit negative about the post for a few reasons:

I am disheartened that rather few internists are attracted to primary care. 

I am disheartened that some recruiters and "hospital systems" are drawn to Internists rather than family physicians due to a perception that Internists drive more specialty referrals. Business is business, I suppose. So if the goal of a hospital system is to drive referrals .. and increase utilization of highly reimbursed services (such as surgery), then I suppose these concepts are right on target and we all should nod our heads in agreement.

Yet I wonder if this all misses the point. Why are we providing healthcare? Is the primary goal is to earn money .. and healthcare is the market? (Just like selling cars or baseball hats or computers) .. I sure hope not. As a profession, we do what we do because we want to deliver a valuable service to the world.

Yes – we want/need to be reimbursed – or we couldn't sustain the service. But reimbursement isn't the primary goal.  And if we consider the goals (implied, perhaps) of family physicians – I would suggest that they coincide with the healthcare needs of a community better than most other physicians.

Yet employers of physicians are sadly more interested in the financial picture than the healthcare needs of a community.

  • They need to build demand for their service by hiring an Internist rather than a Family Physician. Wow.

Let's change a few words and see how similar that is to:

Yeh .. I'm streching the analogy a bit .. but .. you get the point .. is healthcare about "increasing market segment" or about "meeting a community's healthcare needs?" I argue that the two are inherently at odds. Physician supply and recruiting remarkably DOES change healthcare. Yet these "market force" decisions will hurt us far more than they will help us in the long run. We need a system where the skills of physicians trained and recruited will meet the healthcare needs of a community – not the fiscal needs of a hospital or healthcare entitiy.


From the Adam Smith Institute Weblog – Private health: bigger than NHS!

This week, BBC Radio 4 asked me to do an interview on the origins and growth of the non-state healthcare market. Boning up for it, I was reminded just how significant the independent sector is. It provides 85 percent of the UK's residential care beds, for example, and 20% of all acute elective surgery – that's the stuff like hip replacements that isn't exactly life-threatening, but which you want to get done fast anyway. Indeed, the independent sector has more beds than the NHS and local-authority care homes put together! It employs almost as many people – roughly 750,000 of them – and it accounts for a quarter of UK health and social care spending. In addition to the 15,000 nursing and residential care homes that the sector provides, private agencies care for more than 200,000 people in their own homes.

Of course, the other (unanswered) question is whether this is good.  If the NHS needs so much supplementation for those who can afford it, what happens to those who can't afford it?  This makes for a very compelling case that a two-tier healtchare system doesn't ration healthcare resources.

huh?  yes .. I said ration.  With limited resources, and infinite need, we need to RATIONALLY deliver the limited resource.  This is rationing, and despite the negative connotation usually assocated with it .. this is not a four-letter word.

Bottom line is well summarized in The Onion this week.

Steffie Woolhandler

New York Times: A Conversation With | Steffie Woolhandler: Heal Health Care System? Start Anew

Steffie is one of my heroes.  It's now been 14 years since The original paper appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Yikes.  I was applying for medical school at the time, and a friend of mine sent me a copy of a draft version of the article. 

In medical school, I helped start an Albany chapter for the Physicians for A National Health Program .. and when this new thing called the Internet came along, I built the organization a website and hosted it on a server I managed in 1995.

These days I don't have enough time to work on PNHP stuff very much, but this doesn't mean I'm not still passionate about it.  Tha huge administrative overhead that the US insurance industry adds to the cost of healtcare in this country is terrible.  Read the Woolhandler article — it's very compelling.