Dr. SreyRam Kuy, a medical doctor, recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Stand up for Patients." We found this physician's perspective on the current status of our nation's health care system and the response of doctors to be both refreshing and enlightening.
Dr. Kuy noted that physicians are increasingly outspoken on issues such as tort reform and cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, both of which affect physicians' income. However, there seems to be relative silence about reports of poor health care or medical negligence in the United States. He cites the report compiled by the Institute of Medicine regarding statistics of medical negligence, which our firm has previously cited and discussed in prior blogs). He also pointed to the recent Commonwealth Fund's national scorecard showing that the U.S. ranks last among 19 industrialized nations on infant mortality, and 15th on "mortality from conditions amenable to healthcare" — that is, early deaths that might have been prevented with proper care. Dr. Kuy boldly reminds colleagues that a physician's first loyalty should be to his or her patients, rather than to bolstering personal income, stating that physicians hold a "sacred trust" to protect their patients' health.
Dr. Kuy cites a positive example of physicians with the proper motivation that recently occurred in California. Blue Cross of California requested physicians to disclose any medical conditions that might enable it to cancel patients' medical coverage. Dr. Kuy praises the California Medical Association and the physicians who protested this outrageous request, which was so obviously not in the best interests of the patients.
Although Dr. Kuy seems sympathetic to the low morale of physicians, he suggests that a fight for the patients rather than for greater income is the better way to boost morale. We certainly agree that the medical community would be better served, both in its public image and its own morale, if it were better policed from within.
As we have pointed out before, the drop in physician income has very little, if anything, to do with medical malpractice lawsuits, and has everything to do with how insurance companies choose to compensate physicians for patient care and how insurance companies choose to charge physicians for medical malpractice insurance. The enemy is not the legal system, which seeks to provide recourse for patients who have been injured by the negligence of physicians and other health care providers. The true enemy is insurance companies who consistently put their corporate profits ahead of everyone else:
- Other healthcare providers
Unfortunately, physicians certainly feed the public and political outcry against cases of medical negligence. Innocent victims of negligence in other types of cases, such as automobile accidents, are not nearly as denigrated. At Shevlin Smith, it is our position that a victim is to be assisted and compensated, regardless of the origin of the injury. Dr. Kuy took brave steps toward encouraging his colleagues to abandon prejudice against medical reform when he insisted that the patients' best interest must come first.