As a physician over the last 20 years or so, I have become quite used to abiding by the new regulations presented by insurance companies, our national medical societies, pharmaceutical companies, and the national government. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I have felt like I had little input, that I was being controlled by forces beyond my control.
But a recent trip to Washington D.C. changed my mind, and helped me realize that if I don’t want to feel powerless, I must be more involved in the creation of health care policy.
In May, I was appointed by the Heart Rhythm Society to the Health Policy Committee, and joined a small group of electrophysiologists from around the country. A few weeks ago, we went to Washington to learn more about the new national healthcare bill, and to lobby for some changes. I jumped at the chance.
My three days in Washington were exhilarating.
We met with the staffers of our own elected leaders and shared our opinions.
We sat in policy lectures and listened to extraordinarily bright men and women discuss the practice of medicine and how it differs across the country: why some medical procedures are more prevalent in certain parts of the country than others, and whether or not those procedures affect a patient’s outcome. We discussed the incredible differences in cost- why does the same procedure cost more in certain parts of the country? And we studied the impact this has on the health system in general, and on Medicare and Medicaid. I was a sponge absorbing all of this information.
Several politicians came in from various regions of the country. There were few facts, but no shortage of opinion or finger-pointing on all sides: the House blaming the Senate, the Senate blaming the House, Democrats blaming Republicans, and Republicans blaming Democrats.
It made quite an impression. I wondered how anything could get done with this vast amount of distance between the two positions.
But then I realized that was the point: Our system of government could only work in this way. Our government was not conceived as one in which policy could or should be made quickly and easily. It was constructed to be a government of discourse, argument, disagreement, and ultimately, compromise. In this way, I hope, the fringe elements are minimized, and decisions that will affect the majority of Americans will be made from the middle of the political spectrum.
I am thankful for my opportunity to meet with my representatives and to discuss some important issues. But I am most thankful for the opportunity to witness our forefathers’ brilliant design of this democratic process. I have a much greater appreciation for the governing process and hope I continue to have an active role.
Christopher A. Clyne is director of interventional electrophysiology at the Henry Low Heart Center, Hartford Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine