Poll about doctors’ earnings reflects a sick society

| August 4, 2009

With the renewed discussions and proposed legislation about "healthcare reform" the topics of reimbursement, cost, tort reform (not really), insurance and physician income are all issues.

The healthcare debate rages on. Most recently, former governor of Vermont and DNC Chairman Howard Dean and I discussed the new healthcare reform bill on CNBC. According to Dr. Dean, “All physicians should be on salary."

Growing up in Chicago I enjoyed reading Mike Royko who had deep roots in the city and was a creative writer.  During the last big debate about healthcare reform of any size, he wrote this column I recently came across again reproduced here

Consider reading the piece from several years ago, its relevance today and what you think about salaried physicians:

ON A STUPIDITY scale, a recent poll about doctors’ earnings is right up there. It almost scored a perfect brain-dead 10.

It was commissioned by some whiny consumers group called Families USA.

The poll tells us that the majority of Americans believe that doctors make too much money.

The pollsters also asked what a fair income would be for physicians. Those polled said, oh, about $80,000 a year would be OK.

How generous. How sporting. How stupid.

Why is this poll stupid? Because it is based on resentment and envy, two emotions that ran hot during the political campaign and are still simmering.

YOU COULD conduct the same kind of poll about any group that earns $100,000-plus and get the same results. Since the majority of Americans don’t make those bucks, they assume that those who do are stealing it from them.

Maybe the Berlin Wall came down, but don’t kid yourself, Karl Marx lives.

It’s also stupid because it didn’t ask key questions, such as: Do you know how much education and training it takes to become a physician?

If those polled said, no, they didn’t know, then they should have been disqualified. If they gave the wrong answers, they should have been dropped. What good are their views on how much a doctor should earn if they don’t know what it takes to become a doctor?

Or maybe a question should have been phrased this way: "How much should a person earn if he or she must (a) get excellent grades and a fine educational foundation in high school in order to (b) be accepted by a good college and spend four years taking courses heavy in math, physics, chemistry and other lab work and maintain a 3.5 average or better, and (c) spend four more years of grinding study in medical school, with the third and fourth years in clinical training, working 80 to 100 hours a week, and (d) spend another year as a low-pay, hard-work intern, and (e) put in another 3 to 10 years of post-graduate training, depending on your specialty and (f) maybe wind up $100,000 in debt after medical school and (g) then work an average of 60 hours a week, with many family doctors putting in 70 hours or more until they retire or fall over?"

AS YOU HAVE probably guessed by now, I have considerably more respect for doctors than does the law firm of Clinton and Clinton, and all the lawyers and insurance executives they have called together to remake America’s health care.

Based on what doctors contribute to society, they are far more useful than the power-happy, ego-tripping, program spewing, social tinkerers who will probably give us a medical plan that is to health what Clinton’s first budget is to frugality.

But propaganda works. And, as the stupid poll indicates, many Americans wrongly believe that profiteering doctors are the major cause of high medical costs.

Of course doctors are well compensated. They should be. Americans now live longer than ever. But who is responsible for our longevity–lawyers, Congress, or the guy flipping burgers in a McDonald’s?

And the doctors prolong our lives despite our having become a nation of self-indulgent, lard-butted, TV-gaping couch cabbages.

AH, THAT IS not something you heard President Clinton or Super Spouse talk about during the campaign or since. But instead of trying to turn the medical profession into a villain, they might have been more honest if they had said:

"Let us talk about medical care and, one of the biggest problems we have. That problem is you, my fellow American. Yes, you, eating too much and eating the wrong foods; many of you guzzling too much hooch; still puffing away at $2.50 a pack; getting your daily exercise by lumbering from the fridge to the microwave to the couch; doing dope and bringing crack babies into the world; filling the big city emergency rooms with gunshot victims; engaging in unsafe sex and catching a deadly disease while blaming the world for not finding an instant cure.

"You and your habits, not the doctors, are the single biggest health problem in this country. If anything, it is amazing that the doc’s keep you alive as long as they do. In fact, I don’t understand how they can stand looking at your blubbery bods all day.

So as your president, I call upon you to stop whining and start living cleanly. Now I must go get myself a triple cheesy-greasy with double fries. Do as I say, not as I do."

BUT FOR THOSE who truly believe that doctors are overpaid, there is another solution: Don’t use them.

That’s right. You don’t feel well? Then try one of those spine poppers, needle twirlers, or have Rev. Bubba lay his hands upon your head and declare you fit.

Or there is the do-it-yourself approach. You have chest pains? Then sit in front of a mirror, make a slit here, a slit there, and pop in a couple of valves.

You’re going to have a kid? Why throw your money at that overpaid sawbones, so he can buy a better car and a bigger house than you will ever have (while paying more in taxes and malpractice insurance than you will ever earn)?

Just have the kid the old-fashioned way. Squat and do it. And if it survives, you can go to the library and find a book on how to give it its shots.

By the way, has anyone ever done a poll on how much pollsters should earn?

Category: Current Affairs, General Healthcare News, Humor

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