About The Country Doc

Practicing full spectrum family medicine and teaching the next generation of physicians from the heart of logging and farming country in Elma, Washington.

Health Care House Parties

Spinning off the work of Tupperware, Pampered Chef, and Cookie Lee the Obama transition team is encouraging Americans to come together to hold health care house parties this holiday season. The President-Elect and his health care transition point person, Tom Daschle, are asking supporters to invite their neighbors and friends into their homes to discuss what they would like to see in health care. “Our long-term fiscal prospects will have a hard time improving as long as sky-rocketing health care costs are holding us all down,” Daschle says on the transition web site change.gov. “These health care community discussions are a great way for the American people to have a direct say in our health care reform efforts.” Obama continues to keep … Continue reading

Daschle Not the Prescription for Health Care Reform

Leaks on the Internet and a New York Times article yesterday report that President-elect Obama is considering former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be his health care czar.  While I have much respect for the contributions of the long time public servant and have no doubt that he has knowledge on health care, Daschle represents Washington’s business as usual and is the wrong selection for the job. In an undertaking that necessitates a non-political and non-partisan approach, Daschle’s former and current roles place him as a Washington insider and lobbyist.  The South Dakotan served in the Senate in a partisan role as both majority and minority leader and his reentrance onto the scene may only serve to draw quick fire and roadblocks from Republicans.  Since leaving the … Continue reading

Pundit Parlor Game: Name the New Cabinet

Now that the election is over pundits will soon begin to speculate as to who Barack Obama will select for his cabinet.  While I’m hardly a pundit, and just a simply country doctor, I thought I’d put in my two cents on health care related appointees before all the real pundits drown me out.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again, I hope the President Elect nominates former Governor of Oregon John Kitzhaber as either  Secretary of Health and Human Services or as Surgeon General of the United States.  Here’s Dr. Kitzhaber’s brief resume from wecandoit.org: Born in Colfax, Washington on March 5, 1947 South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon in 1965 Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Dartmouth College, 1969 … Continue reading

A Point for Palin

Sarah Palin has received much deserved criticism on everything from her position of issues, to her lavish wardrobe, to her lack of regular reading, but on election day I thought I would give her a single point of praise.  Palin’s so called release of her medical records showed that her primary care provider is a family physician and this is praiseworthy. The “release of records” came last night in the form of a two page letter by Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, a family physician employed by Providence Alaska Medical Center who was the 2002 Family Physician of the Year as named by the American Academy of Family Physicians.  The letter itself is fairly unrevealing–Palin has sought care almost entirely for women’s health/pregnancy … Continue reading

McCain Campaign Sends Mixed Signals on Health Care

Barack Obama is seizing upon a gaffe by McCain adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, about the Republican candidates’ health care plan.  When the adviser was asked on CNN Money about young workers abdoning employment based health care.  “Why would they leave?” he said. “What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit.” The Democrats are mocking this comment as an “October Surprise” and Obama incorporated this into his stump speech in Virginia.  “This morning, we were offered a stunning bit of straight talk . . . from his top economic advisor, who actually said that the health insurance people currently get from their employer is, and I quote, ‘way better’ than the health care they’d be getting … Continue reading

Make Health Care Like Baseball

New York Times Op-Ed piece yesterday by the unusual triumvirate of Bill Beane, Newt Gingrich, and John Kerry analogized the obsessive nature of baseball statistics to where we should head with health care.  Baseball has left simple batting and earned run averages for a next generation of statistics including WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and VORP (value over replacement player) and the writers propose medicine take a similar course to elevate its game. At the heart of what they are trying to get at is called evidence based medicine.  Traditionally medical students learned how to practice medicine based on what their mentors learned when they were students.  This is what is sometimes referred to as anecdotal medicine.  At one time in med … Continue reading

Mental Health Parity Hidden in Bailout

Congress’s $700 billion bailout package unbeknownst to seemingly everyone, or at least me, also contained within it a valuable piece of legislation regarding mental health services that advocates have been fighting for years to pass. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was passed into law as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR 1424). NPR’s All Things Considered brought this story to my attention. The law addresses the concept of mental health parity–that mental health issues are insured to the same degree as is what is traditionally considered to be more physical medical problems (we all know that mental health issues are physical illnesses of course). In 1996 Sen. Pete Domenici and Sen. Paul Wellstone … Continue reading

Will Health Care Be the Next Banking Collapse?

Last week two health care experts sounded the alarm that health care may be the next national meltdown on the same scale as the banking industry.  Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Kenneth Thorpe, PhD of the executive director of the Emory Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions and former deputy assistant of policy at HHS under Clinton, met with reporters via teleconference warning that the crisis in banking may be what looms ahead for health care.  “We have got to find ways … to slow the growth in both Medicare and Medicaid,” Thorpe said. “We’ve got to find ways in the private sector to make health care more affordable for working families and for businesses. Otherwise, despite the talk about universal coverage, nobody will … Continue reading