I have been a member of AAPS for several years now. I do appreciate what AAPS has done through the court system to help physicians. I believe it is mainly through the courts in a manner similar to the civil rights movement, American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Law Poverty Center, and others that physicians' rights can be protected and consequently patients' rights and health. Therefore, I encourage AAPS to pursue legally those paths in the courts that will achieve the goals that AAPS stands for --- namely, physicians' and patients' inviolate relationship to maintain good health and treat illness in patients as the physician sees best.
Obviously, we cannot all go the the courts. But there are many things that we can do individually to achieve these goals. I find that AAPS rails against government especially Medicare and against insurance companies with little constructive action for individual physicians. We can all go yelling and decrying what Medicare and the insurance companies are doing but the fact of the matter is they are here to stay. Therefore, we need to develop actions and plans that will be of value to individual physicians (and thus benefit patients).
It is to be remembered that there are less than one million physicians in the United States compared to 37 million seniors. Congressmen and state legislators will vote to please 37 million people. Our only recourse, then, is the court system and individual action.
Thus, I recommend that AAPS continue to keep us informed on developments in Congress, but without making it such a dominant part of the newsletters. And, that AAPS inform the membership of legal action it is taking on various issues. Finally, that AAPS help guide physicians regarding how best to practice within the current framework. Examples of the latter include: (1) making as many patients on Medicare non-assigned, (2) guiding doctors to balance Medicare and non-Medicare patients so as to protect income, and (3) recommending that doctors avoid any managed care contracts. (The doctors who have done that in this community continue to do well financially, are happier, spend more time with their patients, and treat patients as they know is most appropriate.) There are other suggestions for physicians for articles on individual physician's success in approaching practice in the present context without compromising quality. These would be useful. Even the Medical Sentinel could have more of these kind of articles much like Medical Economics used to have before they moved on to stories about managed care and the like.
Many doctors do not know that there are options for them that are viable, can result in satisfactory income, and personal satisfaction. If more doctors took these steps the tide would eventually change. These are not easy solutions nor can they be taken lightly, but for the individual physician they can be of great value emotionally. We are not going to make millions like sports figures, but I do not know of any doctor who cannot make a decent living and I am sure we will always continue to make a decent living in the future if we take the proper steps.
I trust this is helpful as you lead the AAPS onward and upward.
David N. Reifsnyder, MD
Correspondence originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(1);1-4. Copyright©2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).