Monday, May 30, 2011


This was on the front page of today's New York Times, and it strikes me as really naive:

...There are no national surveys that track doctors' political leanings, but as more doctors move from business owner to shift worker, their historic alliance with the Republican Party is weakening....

That change could have a profound effect on the nation's health care debate. Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama's legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation's uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said.

Because so many doctors are no longer in business for themselves, many of the issues that were once priorities for doctors' groups, like insurance reimbursement, have been displaced by public health and safety concerns, including mandatory seat belt use and chemicals in baby products....

The point is that a lot of doctors now work for hospitals rather than themselves, which means they don't see the world the way small business owners do; also, they're not overwhelmingly white and male -- roughly half of younger doctors are female.

But does it really matter? When doctors say what conservatives want them to say, attention must be paid. When they don't, I suspect the system will just ignore them.

I'm old enough to have seen this happen, to some extent, with cops. When I was a kid, "law and order" conservatives expressed horror at the contempt some in the '60s left had for "the pigs." Among right-wingers, contempt for the police was the worst thing in the world, as was any legislation or court decision that was deemed to "tie the hands" of cops.

But when some cops started speaking up in support of gun control, suddenly it didn't matter what they thought -- their opinions were simply ignored. That's still true today. Even conservatives who praised, say, the cops here in New York for declining crime rates didn't give a crap when even the non-scandal-plagued police commissioners called for stricter controls on guns.

That's what's going to happen to doctors, too, as they tack left -- the same politicians who say they want a health care system that "empowers doctors, not bureaucrats" won't pay the slightest bit of attention to inconvenient utterances from the doctors themselves. And that will probably only get worse as the profession is perceived as increasingly female.

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