So seriously, does anyone believe that we doctors can own a hospital (or
sleep center if you are a sleep specialist, or imaging center, or outpatient surgery
center, or chemo center) and be totally objective about referring patients
We doctors aren't coming out pretty in the health care debate. A few days ago in a Wall Street Journal online piece, I asked, Who Speaks for Medicine? With physician groups lobbying for their self interests, who, I asked, represents medicine, by which I mean the art of medicine, the ideals that we love to impart to our students at graduation and white coat ceremonies?
Well today's New York Times has two stories that show us at our conflicted best:
- First, a report of a doctor-owned hospital in McAllen,
called, appropriately, Doctors Hospital, which is flexing its muscles in Congress
in the health care debate. The hospital (or rather its doctor-owners) has a big voice largely because of the substantial donations it or its proxy made to politicians. What does Doctors Hospital want? It wants to be sheltered from legislation that affects its income--and so far it
has worked. (This is the same hospital that was written about beautifully in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande--a
hospital that provides great care for patients but consistently does
more tests and has more consultants involved per patient than
comparable hospitals elsewhere.)
- Another report also in today's New York Times describes dozens who were arrested in a health care fraud sweep.
Alas, doctors were among those arrested in this scheme. It involved selling 'arthritis kits' to patients that were worthless; another scheme involved billing Medicare for
Ensure and other liquid supplements that were never given to patients or billed to dead patients. The estimate is that BILLIONS of dollars are lost in this
fashion, by bilking Medicare.