Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Physician, Heal Thyself

Neither political party is void of hypocrisy, but the Republicans have it down to a science.  (Oops – bad choice of words – Republicans eschew science, but you know what I mean!)

Some of this hypocrisy is rooted in the language they use.  The right wing’s twisting of words took root in the Reagan era when the term “Compassionate Conservative” became part of the political lexicon.  The party that wants to keep tens of millions of Americans from having even the most basic health care is hardly compassionate, and the party that has catapulted the national debt into the stratosphere is hardly conservative.

Now, meet the new poster child of Republican hypocrisy – Congressman-Elect and physician Andy Harris of Maryland.  His campaign was based on a single issue – repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Harris’s campaign web site states, “the answer to the ever-rising cost of insurance is not the expansion of government-run or government-mandated insurance.” 

At this week’s freshman orientation for new members of Congress, Harris was surprised to find out that his new government-funded health insurance policy, like many private policies, had a short waiting period (less than 30 days) before it took effect.  Unlike many private insurance policies, Harris’ new policy won’t cost him a dime.  According to staffers who were at that meeting, Harris became livid and railed against this waiting period.  While he has the option of using COBRA to extend his prior coverage to fill the short gap, he would have to pay for that himself.  Instead, he had his hypocritical hissy-fit.

Wikipedia has a modern translation of the Hippocratic Oath – an oath every physician takes.  In part, it reads: 
  • I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
  • I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. 

I don’t know whether Dr. Harris’s medical education was subsidized by the government, and I don’t begrudge him from putting that expensive education on the back burner while he serves in Congress.  But as a physician and public servant, he now has a special obligation to implement the Hippocratic Oath, not only as a physician but as a trusted emissary to the halls of power.  His stance on the repeal of health care, which would cost thousands of lives, is the epitome of hypocrisy and an abrogation of the oath that he swore to.


  1. Try as I might, sometimes your logic escapes me. When I google this story, I find it is all over the lefty blogs, but nowhere in the mainsteam media except the Baltimore Sun, which plays it as no big deal (except as fodder for lefty blogs).

    As to the substance, is your point that someone who believes, as I do, that Obamacare poses grave threats to the health of Americans, cannot offer a complaint when, in his first personal exposure to government health care, finds it is even worse than he thought?

    How is it hypocritical to point out that the same government that wants to run everyone's health care does not even do well by those to whom it currently offers health care?

    I had a two month waiting period for health care when I hired in with RCA in 1978. While I am sure this still exists, I haven't seen it since, and truly doubt it is the norm.

  2. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average waiting period for health care is 2.2 months, so Congressman-elect Harris is doing much better than average. While this post was primarily about Harris's hypocrisy, not the health care system in general, I don't believe Harris's tribulations indicate that we should throw out the baby with the bathwater. If my car develops a broken fan belt, I don't throw out the car. Government health care that is offered to congressmen is an order of magnitude better than what most Americans get. If there are aspects of it that are not optimum, let's fix them, not kowtow to the for-profit insurance companies and scrap the system.

  3. You should read that a little closer. 2.2 months is the average wait for those who have a wait. Surprisingly (to me) that is still most people, so I will concede the basic point. I guess working for defense contractors all these years has made me as sheltered as Cong. Harris.

    I still don't see where the hypocrisy is, unless you equate opposition to Obamacare with actively wanting people to have lousy health insurance. I know it is hard to wrap your mind around this concept, but (right or wrong) opposition to Obamacare comes from a belief that it will make health care outcomes worse for most Americans.

    One of the guys on your team, Cong. Grayson, famously said that Republicans' plan for health care is to die quickly. As of January, Cong. Grayson is no longer a congressman. Were Democrats capable of learning, they could learn something from this.

    When my car gets a broken fan belt, I don't throw it out, but I also don't take it to a shop that has a proven record of being unable to replace fanbelts competently.