Emergency physician Paul Hochfeld from Portland, Oregon, who traveled from Portland to Washington, D.C. with a group of doctors from different associations affiliated with the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), argues that doctors like him are a huge part of the problem.
Hochfeld traveled across the country with Mad as Hell Doctors to speak out for real health care reform in America and recently, he graciously allowed me to interview him.
As I spoke to him, he explained that doctors do "way way too much stuff to way way too many people because we're afraid of getting sued."
He decribed how he has seen himself contribute to the problem over the past few years:
"I'm an emergency physician. As an emergency physician, I have carte blanche to do whatever I want to do and I largely ignore the economic ramifications of that to my patients because as an emergency physician I'm kind of privileged in the health care community cause people just understand I can order whatever I want whenever I want to order it and it will just get done. Now, that's actually part of the problem.
That's the part of the problem that's been driving me crazy for years."
Hochfeld explained that "the vast majority of primary care doctors understand that a single payer system would be much better but they don't have the time to make videos, and give radio interviews, and travel across the industry."
Primary care doctors, according to Hochfeld, are down to 30% of the total physician work force when they should be at 50% of the total physician work force. This is why he thinks few have been stepping up to boldly take on America's non-system of sick care.
In contrast, Hochfeld said "specialists in our health care system are just making a shitload of money. I really say that without any hesitancy."
An orthopedic fresh out of residency expects to make a half a million dollars a year. Radiologists are making that much money. Cardiologists are making seven hundred thousand dollars a year. Dermatologists are making twice as much as primary care doctors are making and their job is half as difficult as a primary care provider. So, the physicians, I'm afraid, have become mercenaries for the non-system.
We've completely abdicated our role as shepherds of health in the community and instead we've become technicians that make a lot of money using technology to fight disease.
We're not producing health. We're fighting disease---a very, very different model. And we don't have a health care system. We've got a sick care system, which the way to maximize profit is to keep somebody alive a little longer or make them not quite so ill. So the magic of the marketplace in health care is that we have a lot of diseases to take care of.[emphasis added]
Unlike many of his colleagues, Hochfeld managed to find the time to take action. He created a video, "Health, Money, and Fear." The video caught the people's attention and helped him realize America's basic problem is that America does not have a system.