The Abominable Straw Man
Mike Abrams, Executive Vice President of the Iowa Medical Society
In 1902, the United States was faced with a domestic energy problem that appeared intractable: a coal strike. Congress was being roundly criticized for not stepping in to help manage the situation, and politicians were seeking cover anywhere they could find it.
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Massachusetts Republican, is reported to have met with President Teddy Roosevelt and said "Mr. President – isn’t there something we can appear to be doing?"
The July 7 New England Journal of Medicine includes a commentary by Henry Aaron, Ph.D. entitled "The SGR for Physician Payment – An Indispensable Abomination." I urge you to read it. Dr. Aaron traces the history of the failed SGR policy, then offers some glimmer of hope that it will be replaced with various alternatives piloted as a result of President Obama’s health reform legislation.
The process of temporary patches on SGR allows Congress to appear to be addressing the problem, as Senator Lodge might have welcomed. But the underlying situation rages on, and those efforts should not be congratulated. If a Congressman goes to his dermatologist with a severe rash, he will leave very disappointed if the physician’s treatment is nothing more than makeup to mask the condition. While the rash might not be visible, it still itches.
In the coming weeks and months, you will have lots of opportunities to hear from legislators. As they come to you seeking your support, talk to them about the SGR issue and other issues you care about. While they always listen to you, their antennae are rarely more sensitive than the months preceding the election.