Dr. Melissa Rhodes, a critical pulmonary care specialist from Georgia, left an office full of patients and took the train to Washington yesterday so she could tell members of Congress that the Senate health care bill will “put the government and federal regulators between me and my patients. To have someone else tell me how I can and cannot care for my patients is wrong.”
But all the members of Congress she visited were apparently too busy plotting how to take over the nation’s health care system to meet with her. That’s a pity, because they might have learned something from a physician on the front lines who already has to deal with government meddling in health care decisions every day.
“I have more problems in getting approval for procedures or medicines from Medicare and Medicaid than I do from private insurers,” Dr. Rhodes, a member of Docs 4 Patient Care, told The Examiner. “For Medicaid patients, the quality of care is below standard,” citing as just one example an ophthalmologist she knows who was denied approval to provide a child with a rare condition the medicine he knew would prevent blindness. It was not covered by Medicaid, so the doc wound up paying for it out of his own pocket.
Dr. Rhodes has had similar frustrating experiences with government bureaucrats. “I spent the entire month of September – me, not my staff – trying to get a life-lengthening drug approved for one of my patients from Medicare Part D. I’m on hold for a half hour when I have an office full of patients to see,” she said. “And I often have to talk to someone with no medical experience or even a college education. It’s hard to get peer-to-peer review.”
In fact, she noted, there were no radiologists, gynecologists, breast surgeons or oncologists on the federal board that recommended women not have an annual mammogram, even though the most aggressive form of breast cancer often appears in women under 40 – when routine screening will not be covered.
“Congress never brought us to the table,” Dr. Rhodes told The Examiner. “We could solve many issues right now. If there’s such a crisis, why wait until 2013? But physicians are now fighting for the lives of their patients and the life of their profession.”