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Commentary by Gene Dorio M.D.
| Monday, Dec 14, 2015

genedorioTwo decades ago, I admitted a patient to the Intensive Care Unit for a heart attack. His children were grown, and he looked forward to retirement and purchasing an RV to relax and travel the country with his wife.

Invasive cardiac technology had not evolved, so he remained in the ICU on intravenous medication to control his symptoms. On the fifth hospital day, his wife brought a letter from the insurance company denying any further payment in the unit. His conversation the next two days centered on this letter, and as you might suspect, the stress exacerbated his heart attack and he died.

Nowadays, it is commonplace for insurance companies to deny doctor ordered care with a simple explanation: “not covered.” Medication is changed without physician authorization, diagnostic procedures are denied, and hospitals pressure doctors to discharge patients, sometimes too early.

The public must wonder why educated professionals are now marginalized in medical decision-making within their own field.

Government has always been leery of business involvement in medicine, with legislation to prevent unscrupulous profiteers affecting patient care. Laws enacted to protect the public and ban the “corporate practice of medicine” (CPM) are overseen by states, and therefore they vary throughout the nation.

In California, hospitals generally are not allowed to hire or directly employ physicians for fear it will taint their medical judgement. Control of doctor salaries, pay raises, bonuses and retirement might lead to coercion that compromises care.

Healthcare corporations, including hospitals as well as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, are wealthy special interest groups with swarms of lobbyists influencing state legislators. With vast media PR, they have convinced the public of their solution to control spiraling health care costs. Protective CPM laws have been whittled away distorted by healthcare corporations as “archaic” and “detrimental” to advancing patient care. They want shareholders to benefit while the public suffers.

Interference in doctor decision-making is now more profound in all aspects of medicine. Specifically, templated strategies have been crafted by hospital lobbyists and administrators legally to avoid the appearance of physician-controlled employment. Instead they have signed contracts with doctor groups (ER on-call specialists, radiologists, pathologists, anesthesiologists, cardiologists), controlling them financially and often influencing patient care.

With this also comes internal political influence. The physician medical staff is recognized legislatively as being independent and “self-governing,” but votes to elect leadership are shepherded by administrators toward those doctors who reside under their influence.

Controlling this leadership is a goal of hospital administrators. With this power comes the ability to eliminate physician whistleblowers through sham peer review; hiding unfavorable statistics; setting harmful policies and procedures; establishing distorted criteria and standards; and filtering complaints from doctors and hospital staff. Ultimately, it establishes an autocracy without democracy.

The corporate practice of medicine is really the corporate control of medicine. This is why doctors are marginalized in decision-making, yet the public has not grasped this reality. On the horizon, medical care will only deteriorate as these healthcare corporations further erode protective CPM laws.

To what degree must the public be financially assaulted with increasing premiums, larger deductibles, non-covered medical fees and outrageous hospital bills before they say “enough?” And when will we realize the complex legalese and barriers placed before us when we are told: You cannot choose your doctor; you cannot go to a specialist; you cannot have a CT scan; you must change your medication; etc.?

The corporate practice of medicine is overwhelming American healthcare and will only worsen until it is recognized by physicians and the public.

 

 

Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D., is a housecall geriatric physician on staff at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and has been engaged as an advocate in many community activities. The views expressed in this column as his alone.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Judith Pinto Judith Pinto says:

    Dr D is one of the very few whom genuinely care for our seniors.

  2. Camie says:

    SB 277 woke me up to this! I am really sorry. Doctors should be able to work eith their patients with out feeling threatened.

  3. Carole Lutness says:

    Very good article. Of course, we need “Medicare-for-All” health care like every other developed country in the world. Because the Corporate Thugs control ours we are ranked 37th in the world for health care outcomes despite spending 1/3-1/2 more than any other country. California has had a number of excellent bills that have had wide public support which have been defeated because the For-Profit HMOs/Big Pharma just won’t allow it and our legislators are too afraid to go against one of their major benefactors. Our system is going to have to collapse before Americans finally wake up. All we’re doing is making the Rich Man richer while he does everything he can to deny treatment.

  4. Linda P. says:

    Very informative article. I fully agree. It must be frustrating to be a physician these days, being guided by corporations.

  5. Nice dr Doris get the message out

  6. I know I worked with him he’s fantastic

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