Talk on Putting Patients First in Healthcare Reform

  • Health care reform is divisive dinner conversation here in the Nation’s Capitol.  Ok, maybe not at everyone’s dinner table, but it is a very hot topic lately.  On July 17, 2009, I attended an event hosted by Dr. Val Jones, CEO of Better Health, LLC, titled - “Healthcare Reform: Putting Patients First” - at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 


    As was noted in the larger medical blogosphere, there were no patient bloggers invited to participate on the medblogger panels.  In response to the minor uproar, Dr. Val commented, “The spirit of the conference is about expressing the need to preserve the patients’ right to choose (along with their providers’ advice and input) the best path for their care. It was never my intention to exclude patients from the conference in any way – patients and physicians/nurses are each others best allies, and we need to stick together!

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    Dr. Val had also stated, “I invited medbloggers who have been the most outspoken about reform, and who have the largest reach – but sadly I couldn’t include as many people as I’d like due to budget constraints, etc.”  Interestingly, there were at least three patient bloggers in the audience who only had to drive a miniscule distance to attend and would have only cost a meal or two to be officially included.


    Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about what was discussed during the conference.


    The keynote speaker was Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who started with - “This event is a landmark in how we get discussion and debate going in the 21st century.  We are communicating with the grass roots, with medical bloggers here in this room and across the country.

    “Let me tell you this: I don’t want government interfering in the relationship between doctors and patients…and I don’t want insurance companies interfering either!  I want a vibrant health care market that lets patients choose the health care options that are right for them and their loved ones.  I want a free market democracy that puts patients first.  We can have this, and I’ll say something more about that in a minute.”

    The majority of Ryan’s speech (transcript available) was dedicated to demonizing the role of government in healthcare reform solutions and the Democratic bill recently introduced in the House and supported by President Obama.  Ryan finally said this out loud, “The fact is, this is ultimately not about health care but about promoting an ideological objective.”

    “Not About Health Care” - That’s a frightening admission, but spoken from someone who has access to excellent coverage and care.  For more on Ryan’s speech, read Duncan Cross’ commentary.


    Dr. Rich of “The Covert Rationing Blog” posted a summary of the event.  I truly appreciate Dr. Rich’s opening remarks prepared for the primary care providers’ panel - “Covert rationing systematically destroys the doctor-patient relationship, thus leaving patients fully marginalized and fully exposed during each of their adventures within a hostile healthcare system. And since our current battle over healthcare reform will merely determine which entity - the private insurers or the government - will get to control the covert rationing, patients will remain screwed no matter who wins. So, let’s have a nice talk about “putting patients first,” but until something fundamental changes it will just be talk.”

  • Dr. Rob posted his response and Dr. Kevin posted his prepared opening comments.  I sincerely appreciated one though which was included in Dr. Kevin's later response post. Dr. Kevin acknowledges that “clinicians cannot understand a chronically ill patients’ life away from the exam room.” 

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    Thank you, Kevin. Here's that particular paragraph - “The event has received some criticism for not having patient representation on its primary care or specialist panels. But patient blogger, and frequent KevinMD critic, Duncan Cross was present as well, and rest assured, he will write several posts critiquing the event from a progressive point of view. [Duncan has indeed written many posts tagged ‘ppf’.]  It was nice to meet and chat with him, and I agree that if there’s one voice that even less heard than physicians, it’s that of the chronically ill. Most doctors will advocate on a patient’s behalf, but as he poignantly expressed to me, clinicians cannot understand a chronically ill patient’s life away from the exam room. And he’s right, we don’t. So, I appreciate his views, along with him pointedly reminding us that health reform truly affects patients first.”

    This is only the beginning with Part One and continues with Part Two.  Please stay tuned for more, followed by some questions for you regarding your health care.


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: July 27, 2009