Heartfelt with Dr Melissa Walton-ShirleyView all posts »
Obama wins! But do we?Nov 7, 2012 10:48 EST
It's my first AHA/US-presidential-election week. Steve Stiles, my colleague, thinks it might have happened once back in 2000, but that predates my time with theheart.org team. Rolling our meeting back a week allowed us to become a temporary part of the West Coast preelection fray. My friend Bob Harrington, a recent transplant to California, said it was "difficult to get used to all the propositions" (well, I think he meant legal propositions up for vote, but that could explain why my political hero Bill Clinton has spent so much time on the West Coast lately), and I concur. The airways here were saturated with commercials. Real teachers, actors playing teachers, teachers pretending to switch off the commercials of actors playing teachers, reps from the LAPD standing up against a guy they think is "dirty" while playing the audio from what sounds like the movie Machete, and an attorney general who said what a "nice" person his opponent i, but in the next breath how dishonest she's been under oath. Nice, but dishonest? It's mind-boggling, but no less mind-boggling than trying to figure out the impact the outcome the 2012 US presidential election will have on American cardiology.
I'll get this out of way. I am a Democrat. Four years ago, I voted for McCain. Although I liked the idea of reforming health care, I was afraid we wouldn't live to see it because I was uncertain Barack Obama had the mettle to protect us with his foreign policy. I saw mushroom clouds on the way into the voting booth in 2008. This time, I voted for Obama. I knew I'd probably go broke with his "balance-of-wealth" philosophy, but poor sick people would have access to healthcare. I also likened our country's economy to a sick patient who is told, "You'll be out of the hospital in a few days," but on day three, they spike a fever to 105 and were much "sicker" than previously thought. Instead of going home, they're going to the ICU, and there is no telling how long it's going to take to get them back on their feet. I think our country is in the ICU.
As I walked away from the voter's booth two weeks ago, after voting for Obama and a sprinkling of Republicans for other things, the angel on my shoulder said, "Great job, Melissa. You've been altruistic. God loves that." The devil on my other shoulder said, "Hey, if Gov Mitt Romney wins, your salary might go up, and you can do more good things with that salary." Obama won last night, but I'm still not sure if my devil or my angel is happy. One thing is for certain; I took that "47% speech" into the voting booth with me. If I was leaning "right," it pulled me far back to left. The "47%" is what lost the election for Romney, because it includes not only the "47%" but also those who care about them.
I admit that I did feel sorry for the Romneys last night. It was a hard-fought battle. Mitt had some good ideas, and I think he's a good person, faithful to his wife and his religion. I secretly wished the losing candidate could have an automatic cabinet position so the hopes and ideas of those millions of people who are disappointed this morning could still be fairly represented. It would be a daily catfight, but it is already anyway, and if Obama and Romney spent more time together, they might just like each other and start to work together. (Yes, again, childish magical thinking here).
I made the statement that I enjoy seeing presidents work in a second term. They develop a certain swagger, a different turn of phrase, because they don't have to give a flyin' flip about another election. Oh, they have to play by party lines somewhat, but it's gotta be liberating for a second termer. President Obama in this second term is now free to tackle tort reform. It will make his lawyer friends back in Chicago a little mad at him, but they'll get over it and be shooting hoops together again in no time. I just hope he'll give us the kind of tort reform we need instead of what we think we need. If he'll dial the folks at the University of Michigan and pattern recommendations from them for what protects patients and drives down claims, at the same time weeding out frivolous gold diggers (now I ain't sayin' everyone's a gold digger), it could be his greatest legacy and our first real shot at reforming healthcare.
There are a few other things on the cardiology plate that need addressing. Stop with the subspecialist bashing. Focus instead on saving enough money to entice kids to continue to want to be doctors. No one wants to spend $150 000 to go to med school and struggle when they get out to pay off that debt. Stop driving docs into hospital acquisition. I firmly believe that smacks down the free enterprise of the American doctor. It is a communistic approach to medicine that drives up cost by increasing the amount of reimbursement for same services that formerly cost less.
Mr President, focus on prevention, on smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. Dial up the focus on nutrition and exercise. Call a press conference. Tell Americans in your usual stilted syntax while staring intently through the lens into our living rooms and iPhones. "You got two options. Sit on the couch . . . and drive up the cost of healthcare . . . or get up, America. Lose weight and get in shape . . . and make it easier on yourself and all of us." Be a president that lives that and promotes that. Card-carrying democrats will fall in line. Hard-nosed Republicans and especially tea partiers won't want to be told what to do, but they might just listen when we create the mental image of soup lines forming downtown.
Mr president, promote smoke-free legislation that will take our entire country smoke-free. The money we're spending for preventable illness like those who smoke and develop lung cancer, COPD, heart disease, and stroke is enough to give every American a tax break and every subspecialist in America a raise and a Cadillac.
The diatribe listed above is my wish list for a footloose and fancy-free second-term President Obama. If we keep the military strong, make America healthier, and implement tort reform, our country can be the best we've ever been. Now, these are worthwhile propositions that no president should ever turn down.