Nice Words, but Just Talk by Pat Conrad MD


Recently the president of the AMA, Dr. Steven Stack, gave an interview to the Chicago Tribune detailing why he “…Wants the Government to Back Off.” Dr. Stack is the youngest president in the history of that decrepit organization, and reads like a pretty cool, pretty decent fellow who has mostly identified the problems plaguing modern health care. The short interview reads quickly, but his major criticisms are:

  • There are too many regulations between doctor and patient.
  • EMR’s too often “use software that looks like it’s on an old-fashioned, DOS-based system, a Tandy, an Atari, the kind of software you can only see in a museum.”
  • “We’re measured by metrics that may not even be germane to what we’re doing.”
  • Consolidation in health care, with the insurance industry, has led to decreased patient choice… “very narrow networks that have deprived patients’ access to the physician of their choice and disrupted their continuity.”
  • Shortage of pharmaceuticals, and rise in generics pricing.

Pres. Stack “believes doctors are overwhelmed by the demands of government regulators and insurance companies, and are losing job satisfaction and burning out.” Yep.

A lot of electronic ink has been spilled on this site criticizing the AMA, and they have deserved every barb and more. Supporting a Byzantine coding system that forces doctors to buy code books and software whose purchases fill AMA coffers is the sort of evil duplicitousness one usually finds in the more egregious TV preachers, and it hurts a lot more people. That is not Dr. Stack’s fault and I realize that as a politician he is somewhat constrained by the entrenched interests of the old fart establishment that is the AMA.

But let’s face it, for the AMA to ever matter again requires a degree of militancy that its membership cannot muster. The interviewer notes that Stack denounced the corporatization of medicine in a recent commencement address, and he’s right. But the root of this all is government force interfering in medicine. Would the president of the AMA consider denouncing Medicare and Medicaid as the usurpers of the patient-physician relationship that they truly are, or the conduit for the crony-corporatism that has allowed “private” insurers to keep jacking up prices even before ObamaCare threw gas on the fire? Would the president of the AMA ever call for the radical reform, and eventual phase-out of Medicare in favor of less intrusive, more sustainable systems? I guess not.

Dr. Stack supports the AMA position in favor of banning direct-to-consumer drug advertising. I remember when Nixon banned cigarette advertising on TV in 1970. It seemed like a good idea to me at the time, but I was in the third grade. In fact it was the restriction of public speech in reference to a legal product that only a third grade intellect could support. Calling for such censorship is as wrong now as it was half a century ago. In the interview Stack cites both Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as inspirations, so he clearly has a soft spot for busybody advocates of the larger government that is the lifeblood of the AMA. I’ve described Dr. Stack as a politician, because as president of the AMA he is part of the D.C. establishment. His words: “I have learned that it’s better to debate ideas and policy, and not people. I have learned that it is a value to dare to do great things, but sometimes to accept that good is as good as you’re going to do, and it beats failure.” In our current crisis that is the song of the moderate Republican, and the warble of failure.

A friend of mine often observes that others will take just as much from you as you are willing to let them get away with. Stack may warn the government to “back off”, but his empty rhetoric tells me he won’t support a damn thing to make it happen.

78990cookie-checkNice Words, but Just Talk by Pat Conrad MD