and a hard place
I had a patient who was a medical student. A lot of students don’t have health insurance, so this medical student could not afford really good medical insurance. At some point, his health-insurance company decided not to pay me, so I asked my clinic if I could I see him for a reduced rate for a while. This was the way I was taught to practice — when a patient loses their job, insurance, it’s unethical to dump them. Hopefully, someday they will pay you, but you don’t leave them stranded. But my clinic told me I would be violating federal Medicare law. I still considered doing that. I think that’s just horrible. This is when the patient needs care the most. Ultimately I decided I could not risk my institution with me violating federal Medicare law. Pasa: What happens to doctors who can no longer afford to practice medicine? Wang: Some of them go to work for insurance companies; some go to work for pharmaceutical companies. The former editor for The New England Journal of Medicine talks about how our academic medical centers have basically been bought by pharmaceutical companies. Harvard medical students say their lectures are sounding like drug ads, because so many of their professors are spokesmen for drug companies. Pasa: What do you think of the recently passed national healthcare bill? Wang: Even President Obama’s mother [Ann Dunham] — she was a very persuasive person, but she could not get her cancer treatment covered and died as a result. I’m ecstatic that pre-existing conditions can no longer be excluded. Pre-existing conditions are what we used to call illness. I’m very happy that under the new healthcare reform, healthcare companies will have to treat illness. I don’t know how we got so far gone that with healthcare insurance it became standard form for them to exclude illness by calling it pre-existing conditions.
However, the healthcare reform basically still leaves American medicine in the free market. Your healthcare corporations are still in charge, which is why their stock prices have risen since we got healthcare reform. They make money when they don’t provide care. When they deny life-sustaining treatments, the insurance companies
Dora Calott Wang