July 15, 2012 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Relax, your doctor isn’t quitting

By The Spokesman-Review
 

In the run-up to the 31st vote in the House of Representatives to repeal health care reform (maybe this time’s the charm?), U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers appeared on “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC and lobbed this grenade: Five out of six doctors have considered quitting because of the Affordable Care Act.

You’d think that would’ve been in the news by now, so I went to the Drudge Report, where the “true facts” are kept on life support. And sure enough, among the headlines such as “Government peddles food stamps with soap operas – in Spanish!” and “Obama cracks down on bath salts,” there was “Report: 83 percent of doctors have considered quitting over Obamacare.”

Drudge linked to an article from the Daily Caller, which is a website founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, a former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The article itself is based on a survey by the “nonpartisan” Doctor Patient Medical Association, which was founded by Kathryn Serkes, who was the spokesperson for Clint Didier, the tea party-backed candidate in the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Washington state. The Doctor Patient Medical Association is a member of the National Tea Party Federation and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Serkes has also worked as the public policy director for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which has been active in fighting government-related health measures for many years. A 2009 article by Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones details the group’s history, which includes urging doctors to stay away from the “evil” programs Medicare and Medicaid.

The association’s medical journal is where it really gets strange. As Mencimer notes, “The publication’s archives present a kind of alternate-universe scientific world, in which abortion causes breast cancer and vaccines cause autism, but HIV does not cause AIDS.”

The association says global limits on carbon emissions would lead to poorer health because economies would tank and poverty, which is bad for one’s health, would spread. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons helped Philip Morris fight indoor smoking bans, calling the health benefits “junk science.”

How do such “findings” survive scientific review? The association claims peer review is just a way to micromanage doctors and stymie independent thinking. With that impediment out of the way, the group is free to publish bizarre views, such as mind control might’ve been behind the election of Barack Obama and illegal immigrants have caused an outbreak of leprosy.

So, OK. They think a little differently there. That doesn’t mean the survey McMorris Rodgers touted is bogus. So let’s look at the question:

“How do current changes in the medical system affect your desire to practice?” Three responses were available: thinking of quitting, feeling re-energized and unsure. No choices were available for more nuanced views.

From there, the spinners ascribed all changes to Obamacare. Never mind that the American Medical Association and hospital associations have endorsed the Affordable Care Act. Furthermore, the survey was faxed in such a haphazard way that a broad cross-section of doctors was not reached. The vast majority of respondents were in solo practices. Large medical groups did not weigh in. A disproportionate percentage of respondents were from the South.

It’s not a coincidence that these results line up with the political ideology of the groups involved in conducting and publicizing the survey.

On her website, McMorris Rodgers calls the Affordable Care Act “radical.” But if radicalism were a real concern, she would’ve ignored a survey from a group that’s far outside the medical mainstream.

Furthermore, she has called for common-sense reform as an antidote to Obamacare. OK, but maybe we need to define “common sense” first.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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