Family Doctor: I Want to Take Care of My Patients
by Dr. Tim Shepherd, Heritage Foundation, October 7, 2013
As a family doctor, I have always believed in treating the whole person.
Every person is a unique individual, and you can’t cookie-cutter medical care; it’s individualized. I am concerned about health care under the new law, and my patients are very concerned.
Medicine has changed so much in my lifetime. My father had two kinds of patients in the 1950s and 1960s: those who paid in cash, and those he did charity work for. Back in those days, hospitals were not run by huge consolidated corporations – they were run by churches and charity organizations.
We can’t go back to those long-gone days of charity hospitals. And today, one part of living well often involves private health insurance—as long as government regulators don’t interfere with the individualized care that other doctors and I are providing. People having choices is a very important part of medical care.
In the past three decades, I have seen health care become more and more regulated by government. Of the 15 employees I hire, five of their jobs are completely devoted to filling out insurance forms and government paperwork. All that administrative work can detract from time spent on patient care.
It makes it difficult to take care of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—if you don’t have an environment where you are free to do that. The biggest problem with Obamacare is that there are going to be layers and layers of government bureaucracy that will try to tell me how to treat patients I’ve helped for over 25 years. More federal control is the foundation of it.
And the federal health care programs already have problems. In my experience, Medicare will decide to suddenly shut down for a month. “We’re just not going to pay you for a month,” they say – that can grind our entire medical practice to a slow crawl. There’s no 1-800 number or customer service we can appeal to; we just have to get by.
These new boards and commissions to be established under Obamacare will tell doctors: “These are the procedures you will do, and these are the ones you will not do.” Treatment will be restricted, reimbursement will be further decreased, and more doctors will retire early, as I have already seen with many colleagues.
People need to think carefully when they say “Obamacare will offer health care to those who have none.” It promises to offer health insurance, but what sort of health care results when Obamacare adds even more government busywork and approvals to an already highly regulated system?
It’s not good news for individualized care. It means less time for me to get to know my patients. Caring for my patients is more to me than simply writing a prescription; it’s getting to the root of the problem. I will fight for my patients to get the care they need.
That’s why I became a doctor, and my patients should not settle for anything less.
Dr. Tim Shepherd, a family practice physician for over three decades, helps thousands of families live well in Lewisville, Texas. He and his wife have 11 children and five grandchildren, and their son Josh is a marketing associate at The Heritage Foundation.
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