Somewhere between the election of President Obama and the raging battle to repeal ObamaCare, the health care industry has woken up — sort of.
Part of why President Obama was able to gain early momentum for ObamaCare’s passage was that he had the health insurance lobby, Big Pharma, the AMA, and the hospital lobby all eating out of his hand — or, more exactly, all feeding him and his party, in the form of donations and political support. In May of 2009, President Obama posed for a photograph at the White House with health industry leaders, and along the road to ObamaCare’s passage, the president and his congressional allies encountered very little opposition from the health care industry — the very people who arguably had the most to lose.
Thankfully, the Democratic White House and Congress have encountered plenty of opposition from other quarters: namely, from citizens who don’t relish the thought of government control over health care, or the thought of government intrusion into the uniquely private relationship between patient and doctor. Americans also don’t support the thought of launching a massive new entitlement program, or of largely paying for it by siphoning money out of an existing already-barely-solvent entitlement program (Medicare) — a practice commonly known as robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Americans don’t want higher taxes, greater debt, rationed care, reduced liberty, or any of the other unpleasant consequences that would result from funneling enough wealth and power to Washington to give it control of what will soon be one-fifth of our economy. All of this, of course, is why we are now very much in the midst of a nation-defining fight for repeal.
Some good news in that fight is that the alliance between the Obama administration and the health care industry appears to have largely broken down. The first group to break ranks was the doctors. Across America, they began to be among the leaders, and the leading funders, of the Tea Party movement. Groups like Docs4PatientCare — an organization of doctors who believe that the health care system should be controlled by patients and physicians, not by insurers and especially not by the government — sprang up and quickly expanded. New chapters of the Benjamin Rush Society (of which I was recently the director and am now a member of the Board of Advisors) began to form on the campuses of American medical schools. Taking their name from a doctor who signed the Declaration of Independence, they unite medical students who believe that doctors are called to serve their patients, not the government.
Such Tocquevillian civil associations can do a great deal of good, but USA Today reports that doctors haven’t stopped there. As of April, 47 doctors were running for the House or Senate — nearly three times the number of doctors (16) currently serving in Congress. Of these 47, 41 are Republicans and six are Democrats, a split that says something about how well the AMA — a high-visibility supporter of ObamaCare whose membership includes only about one-sixth of all physicians — represents doctors and their views.