Leave it to the healthcare establishment to snub its own heroes—physicians, nurses, and other providers of care—real heroes who go above and beyond and save countless lives, all in a day’s work. Leave it to the healthcare establishment to overlook its own in favor of the government and Wall Street fat cats who are trying to put them out of business.
It’s called propaganda. And whether you realize it or not, it surrounds you.
Modern Healthcare is a leading publication and research institution serving America’s healthcare providers and healthcare systems. Every year, they publish a list of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.” They just published their 2016 list. And it’s a doozy.
Some of the entries, while dismaying, are not surprising.
For the third straight year, Barack Obama has been named the number one most influential person in healthcare. Go figure. If by “influential” you mean the most destructive, I suppose Obama’s placement at the top of the list makes sense. More on that in a moment.
Obama is in good political company on the list, which is slightly more surprising.
Joining Obama at the top of the list are the anticipated individuals who gave you Obamacare. These include at number 5 Silvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and, at number 9, Marilyn Tavenner, disgraced former administrator of the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Tavenner currently serves as President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. Go figure. It seems no one in Washington actually loses their job these days.
Burwell and Tavenner are joined by Andy Slavitt, the current acting administrator for CMS (#10), Patrick Conway, Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer for CMS (#26), Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (#28), and Karen DeSalvo, acting Assistant Secretary of Health for HHS (#31). Next up is Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (#53), Robert Califf, Commisioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) (#61), and Mark Chassin, President and CEO of the Joint Commission, the body that accredits and certifies American hospitals and clinics (#65).
Finally, there is Vivek Murthy, Obama’s controversial (and largely publicly absent) Surgeon General. Murthy, an Indian American physician born in Great Britain, is married to a Chinese American physician. Together they run a national physicians’ organization dedicated to liberal progressive healthcare reform. Murthy publicly declared gun violence a threat to public health, leading many to conclude that he would like to see gun control shoved in through the Obamacare back door. That almost cost him his appointment to the Surgeon General’s post. Even so, Murthy came in a surprisingly low 73rd. I guess he was a little too absent from the Obamacare debate, when he could have done so much for the liberal progressive cause. Oh, well.
Whew! But wait! We’re not done with the politicians yet!
I know what you’re thinking: But the list is only 100 entries long! Why so many politicians?
Which is exactly my point. But I digress . . .
Then there is the group of politicians—and politicians posing as non-politicians—who are slightly more surprising given that they have done absolutely nothing of record for the sake of health care—unless, of course, you consider opposing those seeking to inject a modicum of sanity into an increasingly insane system to be “influencing healthcare.” Those include U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (at a surprisingly high #11), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (an equally surprisingly high #13), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (#32). Rounding out the group from the other side of the aisle (or wherever it is that he hails from these days) is U.S. Senator, longtime Independent, and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (#15). Then there are the political outliers, including John Edwards, Governor of Louisiana (#35), joined by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (#89).
Finally, there are the non-political politicians whose inclusion should make every decent and informed American scratch his or her head: At number 19 is the Honorable John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who virtually single-handedly secured the survival of the inaptly named Affordable Care Act (ACA). Roberts is joined at number 54 by his colleague on the High Bench, the Honorable Anthony Kennedy, the High Court’s notorious “swing vote” who dutifully swung in Roberts’—and Obama’s—direction when it came to the ACA. No coincidence there, I’m sure.
Nor is it any coincidence that not a single justice who opposed the constitutionality of the ACA—even for reasons espousing a firm understanding of the American healthcare delivery system—is included in the list. To the contrary, the most vocal among them, the Honorable Antonin Scalia, the ACA’s most outspoken critic, died alone in a remote part of Texas, was pronounced deceased of natural causes by an individual who did not know him, never met him, did not travel to the location, and in fact never examined, much less investigated, anything. After refusing to conduct any inquiry whatsoever (or even, apparently, send any federal officers to the scene), arrangements were quickly made to cremate Scalia. As if that weren’t enough, the ever-self-absorbed Barack Obama again treated us to a disgraceful show of disrespect by refusing, oh-so-publicly, to attend Scalia’s Funeral Mass on a lovely Saturday a few days later during which Obama had nothing better to do. Again, I’m sure there is no connection. None at all. Nothing to see here.
Altogether, 20 of the 100 individuals honored are politicians, the heads of federal government healthcare bureaucracies, or idologues masquerading as objective jurists. So 20% of the list is made up of the D.C. powers that be. Got it.
What about the other 80%? That is even more dismaying.
Health Insurance and Wall Street Fat Cats
To make a painfully long story short, 65 out of 100 spots went to the healthcare insurance and Wall Street fat cats. That’s right: The guys who have already made themselves rich at the expense of your health, including those who just grabbed the money and ran—away from the Obamacare exchanges that they convinced you to adopt. This group includes the CEOs of most of the country’s largest and most profitable insurance companies, healthcare systems, healthcare federations, associations of healthcare professionals, and healthcare managers. Also included in the list are the well-heeled heads of ancillary providers such as Big Pharma. Also included are some of nation’s largest healthcare technology giants—who, like their corporate colleagues on the list, publicly supported Obamacare, with its onerous technological mandates, in exchange for promised—and now delivered—wealth and control beyond what we regular Americans can even fathom.
Okay. So between the politicians and the industry fat cats, we’re up to 85.
Yikes! We’re running out of spots!
Quasi-governmental Agency Leaders
Just wait: With only 15 spots remaining, guess who garnered 13 of them? Why, the illustrious heads of quasi-governmental agencies and foundations that also lent their public support to Obamacare while cashing in behind closed doors. These include the presidents of such quasi-political, quasi-professional membership associations as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Nurses Association (ANA), the National League for Nursing, the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Joining them are the executive directors of the union National Nurses United and the American Public Health Association. Also joining them are countless heads of other ideologically motivated so-called “professional organizations” that serve everyone except their real, working members.
With only two spots left, the editorial board of Modern Healthcare had to be discriminating.
The Final Two
Coming in at number 41, the 98th spot went to Atul Gawande. Gawande, a professor, author, and speaker from the Harvard Medical School, has spent most of his career criticizing his own profession and devising overly simplistic “checklists” that, according to Gawande, will prevent medical errors. Only they don’t. But that’s another blog post for another day.
Drumroll, please . . .
The last and final place of honor on the Modern Healthcare list of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2016 goes to . . .
Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation. You know—the national organization started by a confirmed racist and eugenicist that today trades in free abortions for poor minority women and the auctioning off of the partially formed body parts of their aborted fetuses. You know—the same organization that is now using the Zika crisis to advocate, yet again, for unrestricted access to free late-term abortions.
You know—the organization that engages in the abject practice of genocide, all the while claiming to champion “women’s rights.” (Except, of course, the rights of women not to have their children murdered and their tiny bodies sold off like so much meat. Or the rights of baby girls who will never even be given a chance at life, much less an opportunity to exercise their feminist rights. Or the rights of the scared young women whom they dupe into believing that they are exercising a personal freedom, all the while knowing that it is only later in life that those same women, upon becoming mothers, will likely be traumatized by the magnitude of what they did out of desperation, fear, manipulation, and ignorance of their options—which are many, happy, and life-saving.)
That Cecile Richards. Right. Let’s honor her. What a feminist and healthcare hero.
The Final Tally
So there you have it:
In a list of 100 supposed “movers and shakers” in healthcare, we have: (1) one U.S. President taking the number 1 honor for the third year running, who ran roughshod over his own Congress and the American public that elected him in enacting and defending the very law that will increase our suffering and hasten our death; (2) 19 other politicians who have done . . . what, exactly, for healthcare in America? Anyone? Anyone?; (3) 65 of the heads of the country’s wealthiest insurance, pharmaceutical, health care administration, technology, and other corporate conglomerates who sold out the American people by publicly supporting Obamacare even as they arranged—and collected—their own bailouts behind closed doors; (4) 13 equally well-heeled heads of quasi-governmental bodies that likewise supported Obamacare publicly while polishing their golden parachutes in private; (5) a Harvard academic who has spent the better part of his career criticizing and oversimplifying what his colleagues—unlike him—still actually do for a living in an increasingly hostile healthcare environment; and (6) the President of Planned Parenthood, which trades in free, on-demand abortions and the selling of fetal body parts.
These are the “most influential people in healthcare?” Seriously?
What in the world do you suppose Hippocrates would have to say about this list?
A Matter of Definition
I guess it depends upon how you define “influential.” If by “influential” you mean the 100 people who did the most to destroy the American healthcare system, then the list is pretty darned accurate. On the other hand, if by “influential” you mean the heroes of healthcare, not so much.
Where did all the doctors go?
There is one very large and diverse group that was left completely off of the list. Not one entry. Not one out of 100.
That is practicing physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers. You know—the ones who get up most days weary from the day before, put on scrubs and a white coat, and take care of folks in need. The ones who have not traded in their stethoscope for a Rolex and their dingy call room for an oceanfront vacation home. The ones who you hope are working when illness or injury strikes you.
Healthcare’s Real Heroes
Since Modern Healthcare won’t do it, I will tell you who the heroes of healthcare are:
They are the young medical resident working his 18th, or 24th, or 30th hour in a row without sleep, food, or a moment to himself so that your needs are met no matter the hour.
They are the local ER physician who misses sleep, food, and major events in his own and his family’s lives so that when illness or tragedy strike, he will be there for you.
They are the beaming obstetrician who breathes a sign of relief, smiles broadly, and discreetly wipes away a tear as she completes her 1,000th delivery of a healthy baby, who was prepared to pull out all the stops and cry tears of frustration and pain had things not gone so well—which happens more often than she would like, but thankfully far less often than the joyous deliveries.
They are the dedicated cancer doctor who specializes in not only eradicating that most dreaded of diseases, but also in holding the hands of the suffering as they bravely battle their way toward certain death.
They are the dedicated family physician who, in the middle of the night, trades his warm bed and comfortable pajamas for a snow-covered car and a pair of mismatched scrubs as he heads, for the third time in 24 hours, back to the hospital across town because a patient needs his help or simply wants to hold his hand.
They are the idealistic young doctors and nurses who fly to faraway lands to care for those without the benefit of hospitals, doctors, and medications in an effort to make not only our great nation, but also the entire world a better, happier, healthier, safer place to live.
They are the nurses, midlevel providers, therapists, and other clinicians who work alongside the nation’s physicians to care for those in need. They are the ones who specialize in heartbreakingly human maladies that know nothing of the rising and setting of the sun, family vacations, and other personal luxuries.
They are the doctor who will one day be there for you to pull you back from the brink—of pain and despair, if not death. They are the doctor, like me, who will be there for you just because you ask.
Just Between You and Me
Because in that moment, there will be no discussion of politics, or money, or your “right” to care. There will be no consideration of what is right for society if that is not also what is right for you.
In that moment, there will be only you and me. Neither of us will be rich. Both of us are likely to be tired, and overwhelmed, and afraid. That, however, will not matter, for we will have something far more important than money, or rest, or nerves of steel.
In that most private of moments, despite the bustling activity around us, we will have a quiet connection. A real, human connection. We will care. We will be there for each other. We will trust each other. And we will get the job done, the government and Wall Street be damned.
We will have no choice—for unlike them, we have no boardroom to which to retreat. Nor do we have a golden parachute to transport us to safety.
When the going gets tough, unlike them, we will get going. Together we will stare down the beast, come what may. Together we will see you to safety, whether in this life or the next.
Because that is what we do. We do it not for fame, or weath, or recognition. We do it for each other.
Modern Healthcare can have its list. I’ll take holding your hand any day of the week.
Those are my thoughts. Please let me know yours.