Originally published on Breitbart News
Attempting to enact his big-government health care scheme, President Obama and his supporters frequently claimed that a "majority" of doctors supported his health-care plans. When the American Medical Association – which had opposed HillaryCare – signed onto Obama's plan last year, the organization seemed to make the President's case. Most people assumed that the AMA represented most of the doctors in the country. But in fact, the AMA represents less than 20 percent of all physicians in the United States. And yet as the organization's leadership moved more to the left, it held a near monopoly on media attention on issues pertaining to public health. No longer.
As the AMA has become increasingly politicized in recent years – issuing a statement in support of climate change, for example, in 2008 – a new group of doctors has risen to challenge them. Like other anti-statist groups that have risen in opposition to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda, Docs4PatientCare are challenging the AMA's stranglehold on health care matters, just as other groups once challenged the right of the left-leaning American Bar Association to determine what judges are and are not qualified for the United States Supreme Court. How Docs4PatientCare managed to barge its way into the closed-door meetings of Washington offers a lesson to other groups seeking to have a voice in their federal government.
Founded by Dr. Hal Scherz, a prominent Atlanta physician, the group of doctors expressed concern that like so many other professional groups, the AMA's leadership have been thoroughly "Washingtonized" – caring more about the pleadings of other lobbyists on K Street, White House invitations and Capitol Hill committee appearances than the professions they are supposed to represent. As doctors have taken a battering over several decades from insurance companies, HMOS, and government agencies, Scherz says the AMA was a bystander.
"As the insurance companies become more and more impossible and government intrusion keeps growing, we've seen our delivery of care to our patients compromised and our incomes decrease," he said.
But it was the AMA's support for ObamaCare that really troubled Scherz and others in his field.
Many doctors run small businesses and by nature are entrepreneurial. Why then, he wondered, would the AMA favor ObamaCare's regulatory and taxation burden? Why would they want a multitude of government panels interfering with the decisions doctors usually make with their patients about care and treatment? Recognizing that the AMA was compromised, Scherz decided to organize his own group in opposition to the Obama plan.
He recalled how effective talk radio had been the year before in stopping the seemingly unstoppable immigration amnesty bill, and wondered if there was a way for him to get his voice heard on the air. In fact, Scherz was driving home one night when he heard talk show host Hugh Hewitt ask on the air, "Where are the doctors?" opposing ObamaCare in the health care fight. Scherz wanted to give him an answer. So when Salem radio brought a "road show" on Obama's first 100 days to Atlanta last May, he decided to attend. Listening to Hewitt and other Salem talk show stars like Bill Bennett and Dennis Praeger again ask, "Where are the doctors?" Scherz waited patiently in a long line of people to give them his answer. But just as he reached the head of the line, the master of ceremonies shut down the mikes for the evening.
Undeterred Scherz called a fellow physician, Congressman Tom Price, and asked the Congressman if he would come address a group of doctors if Scherz could assemble them. Price agreed and when Scherz got 40 doctors in the waiting room of his office to discuss ObamaCare, the meeting ended with the doctors deciding to form an organization to it. They christened themselves Docs 4 Patient Care that night and put together enough money to hire an attorney, set up a business structure, and establish a website.
Growing past this initial cadre of supporters proved difficult, however. Scherz spent as much time as he could emailing and phone calling more doctors to join the effort, but the response rate was slow. So coming home one night from the operating room, he called the Hewitt show and got in on the call-in queue. Waiting on hold for two hours, he finally got on the air in the show's third hour. Delighted to have his missing-doctor question finally answered, Hewitt spoke with Scherz for a lengthy period.
"Then Hewitt blogged about us and put us the website and that made all the difference," said Scherz.
Having heard the doctor on Hewitt's program, Salem Radio's vice president of content, Lee Habeeb, a legendary talk show producer, booked him on other Salem shows including a co-hosting gig with Mike Gallagher in Dallas, Atlanta, and New York. "Mike and his show were coming on strong. So it was just the right moment. He made our group a focal point of listener interest and it really helped," says Scherz. This led to television interviews, involving Scherz and other members of the group to get their message out, such as Fred Shessel, one of Scherz's partners and vice president, Scott Barbour, a prominent orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon, and Todd Rubin, a local anesthesiologist who started making something of the website (www.docs4patientcare.org). One talk show listener and activist, Felicia Horton, asked to be brought on as volunteer executive director.
With their newfound growth and publicity, Docs 4 Patient Care made getting heard in Washington their next objective. Wearing their scrubs and white jackets, the doctors drew attention as they walked the halls of congress and spoke at rallies on Capitol Hill. Often just showing up in the offices of members of the House and Senate, they would manage to get appointments with the members themselves or key staff members.
One particular meeting that stuck out in memories was with the staff of Senator Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican senator who was being heavily courted by Democrats in the hope of getting some bipartisan window dressing for the Democratic bill. The meeting was a long one by Capitol Hill standards and the Snowe staff kept bringing up the arguments made by Democrats on behalf of ObamaCare. But in the face of the doctor's facts and experience the arguments didn't stand up long. Schertz believes Docs 4 Patient Care may have helped make a difference in Snowe's ultimate, and fateful, decision not to sign on to ObamaCare.
Another memorable incident cited by members of the group occurred when one of their members, Joyce Lovett MD, an African American female pediatrician, got the doctors into a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus. A debate opened up over the health care plan and soon the doctors were text-messaging their colleagues visiting other offices around the capitol for reinforcements. As the room began filling up, the doctors, doing well in the back and forth of debate, seemed to be changing some minds. At that point, a worried Black Caucus leader and diehard partisan, John Conyers, broke up the meeting, saying the doctors were more interested in embarrassing the first black president than in achieving real reform. Unused to this sort of political attack, the astonished doctors told other caucus members how they felt after taking time from their practices and patients to come all the way to Washington only to hear a member of Congress insinuate they were racists. One caucus member privately dismissed Conyers' "old ways of thinking," suggesting that the CBC might be ready for fresh, and more innovative, leadership.
In addition to return trips to Washington over the next 4 months, Docs4PatientCare also helped organize physician led-rallies around the country with hundreds of doctors participating in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Indianapolis and Portland. The rallies proved crucial as the largely Atlanta-based group made new connections in taking on a national character. Jaime Ronderos MD, a prominent Texas anesthesiologist, who had already organized many of the doctors in his own state, folded his group in with D4PC. Also coming on board was Marc Neerhof, a perinatologist who is also on the faculty of the University of Chicago and a skillful op-ed writer. In addition, Reed Wilson, a well-known Los Angeles cardiologist with a business and political background became a board member. And finally, as the group showed its interest in working with all health care professionals, Joel Strom, a Los Angeles dentist and experienced coalition organizer agreed to head up an outreach program.
Only last month, the group had its inaugural board meeting in Atlanta where, in addition to making plans to increase their public and media presence, they inaugurated a fund raising program that would let them run a full-blown field operation in the elections this Fall. "We want to be out there in the states and let voters know which members of Congress put patient care second and voted for this power grab by Washington politicians," said Scherz.
But, beyond this, Scherz and the other board members want Docs 4 patient Care to grow into what the AMA should have been. This means more than defeating ObamaCare. The group is non-partisan and anxious to work with all those who want to hear from Docs 4 Patient Care on the dangers of state-run medicine. With chapters recently up and running in several states, he sees growth ahead. That is likely discouraging news for the status quo world of Washington, D.C., but an inspiration for other Americans who see what their government is doing and want to offer an alternative.