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November 22, 2006 - 7:50 am

I went yesterday to my regular check-up with my cardiologist and spent most of the session talking with him about socialized medicine and its repercussions. You know it’s a sign your health is improving when your doctor talks more about what is going on in the wider world then your bum ticker. That is fine by me.br /br /My cardiologist works in a large practice at one the local hospitals here in Knoxville. They have outreach care for heart patients in many of the small counties in this part of the state with physicians who are willing to drive many miles to see patients who cannot or will not come into Knoxville. Some of the cardiologists in my doctor’s practice donate their time to the a href=”http://www.interfaithhealthclinic.org/about.html”Interfaith clinic /a here in Knoxville that provides medical services to those who fall through the cracks:br /br /blockquoteIn January, 1990 a twelve member committee worked together to create a place where people without insurance could receive affordable health care. On March 6, 1991 the InterFaith Health Clinic opened its doors to serve those earning too much to qualify for government subsidized insurance and too little to afford private insurance. Since opening, the clinic has served over 50,000 patients./blockquotebr /br /”What the general public does not realize,” my cardiologist said, “is how much free work we doctors give away. We had a patient in here yesterday without insurance, nothing, and he was in the heart cath lab yesterday afternoon.”br /br /What will happen to this same patient of my doctor’s if the United States had Universal Health Care? Would he have been put on a waiting list for the heart cath lab or for other necessary tests a href=”http://www.onthefencefilms.com/video/deadmeat/”like so many in Canada/a? What will socialized medicine do to the compassion and/or working habits of doctors? Will taking away the free market in medicine start a new generation of doctors who see no incentive or reason to take on more patients when they draw a salary regardless of how many patients are seen? Have you ever dealt with HMO’s who tried that approach? By paying doctors a fixed sum for so many patients, the incentive is to ration care, not provide more. In addition, if doctors are working for the government, they may see that as fullfilling their obligation already to the underprivileged etc., so they may not feel such a strong need to help out in extra ways.br /br /Once the government is in charge, will doctors view their loss of autonomy over their practices as reason to turn compassion over the government? I think so. It is human nature to work for an incentive of some kind and to feel that one has some kind of autonomy over one’s work–that is why capitalism is the only system that works, it allows people to reap the rewards of their own work and rewards those who are better than the competition. To completely take the market out of healthcare allows mediocrity to flourish. Can we really afford to do that with people’s lives?br /br /Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves these questions before demanding that the government take charge of health care? Because asking them after the fact may be too little for many and too late for some.

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