Putting Patients First

Posted: Oct 05, 2014 9:00 AM

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the October issue of Townhall Magazine. 

When SouthWest Urology first opened its doors in 1982, the two founders, fresh out of their residency programs, weren’t concerned with medical coding, reimbursements, or regulations.

The truth is, they didn’t give much thought to the government’s intrusion into health care or the economic aspects of their new venture. The business in those days took care of itself, and physicians were free to spend 100 percent of their time focused on patients.

Now, after more than 30 years in practice, the Ohio-based group tells Townhall that their main concern is whether or not they can survive the corporatization of health care delivery, the cannibalization of care by large hospital systems, and the changes that are coming with Obamacare.

Private practice physicians across the country share similar concerns, which is why many doctors are retiring early, leaving the headaches behind to go work for a hospital system, or are quitting medicine altogether. But not every physician is giving up on independent medicine, of course, and neither is the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that, according to its website, is dedicated to “preserving the sanctity of the patient- physician relationship and the practice of private medicine.”

While efforts to usher in some form of socialized medicine in the United States date back nearly a century, it was the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill of the 1940s that was the impetus for AAPS’ founding. The proposal called for national health insurance and was a precursor to what we have now, Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of AAPS, tells Townhall. “AAPS was founded because the founding members felt that the AMA (American Medical Association) was not fighting against this.”

The group’s motto, “omnia pro aegroto” translates to “all for the patient,” and that’s exactly what they’ve been committed to for the past 70 years.

“We fight for limiting or removing government’s intrusion into medicine,” Orient says. “We provide seminars helping our members learn how to get out of third-party contracts and how to opt out of Medicare and serve their patients directly, just like most of us did before 1965, when medicine was a whole lot less expensive and a whole lot more directed toward what patients need.”

And when the medical profession is threatened, the group does more than just gripe—they take action. In 1994, AAPS temporarily stopped Hillarycare by suing over the task force’s secret operations. And more recently, they put the Texas Medical Board on trial in federal court for abusing its power. While closing arguments were in February and a written decision is still pending, the trial nevertheless “sent a strong message of reform and accountability” to state medical boards across the nation, AAPS’ website explains.

The association also hasn’t given up on fighting Obamacare.

“We’ve got a lot of lawsuits pending and a lot of amicus briefs have been filed, some of them are directed at Obamacare, and even though they’ve not gotten much publicity, they really do have the possibility of voiding the whole act,” Orient says. “I think the most important thing we do is out beyond the Beltway, out in real America, in providing an option to total centralization of medicine and the abolishment of the patient-physician relationship.”

Although our nation is inching closer to socialized medicine, Orient is still hopeful that the trend can be reversed, but says it won’t happen immediately.

“I think we have a trickle of movement in the opposite direction. It could become a flood at some point as patients realize that it is of some value to them to have a physician who cares about them and is working for them instead of someone who’s punching a clock and serving the bottom line of a hospital, or a third-party payer,” she says, adding that physicians are also learning that they can not only escape from these shackles, but can also make a living, work less, and pay less overhead by going back to the old-fashioned way.

But if the trend toward universal, government-funded health care con- tinues apace, Orient believes the future of health care in America will look very much like the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’ll see waiting lines, we’ll see rationing, we’ll see more patients being shuttled off to hospice when back in the old days, which was not very long ago, they could have survived with reasonable treatment,” she says.

One thing about the future of health care is certain, however: AAPS will never waver in its support for ethical medicine that puts the interests of patients first. •