Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm sick of the politics. Patients need health care reform.

At this point it seems like everyone’s frustrated with health care reform. Liberals feel betrayed about the public option and worry that we’ll see little actual “reform.” Conservatives are skeptical about the proposals’ ability to control costs, and worry that expanding public programs without stronger cost controls will leave our country further in debt. Having debated compromises, and compromises of those compromises, many of us are left wondering whether health care reform even matters anymore. Well, as an American, I am disappointed in the broken political process; as a progressive, I worry my core values of justice and equity are being undermined; but as a doctor, I cannot give up on reform.

More than a year ago, Mr. Nelson*, a hypertensive man in his 50’s with two grown daughters and a college bound son, came in as a new patient. He had lost his job as a salesman and with it his health insurance. For awhile, he paid out of pocket for the medication prescribed by his previous doctor, but he could no longer afford them. The community health center where I work offers sliding scale payment and low cost medications, so when he began having severe headaches, he came in to see if we could help. His blood pressure was sky high and I was concerned that he could have a stroke, but he did not want to go to the emergency room fearing the costs. Instead, I wrote a few prescriptions, saw him several times over the next few months, and we finally got his blood pressure under control.

I saw Mr. Nelson again a few weeks back, and he has still been unable to find work. His wife’s employer does not offer health insurance, and with her salary and his unemployment benefits, their income is too high for Medicaid. He could purchase coverage on the non-group market if it was affordable, but he has looked and this is not an option. Over the past year, I have been worried about his daytime fatigue and snoring, and I suspect he has obstructive sleep apnea. However, he cannot afford the thousands of dollars for a sleep study and respiratory equipment, so he must delay this medical care. It is a gap that the health center cannot fill. Each visit he is upbeat about his family and his blood pressure, but I cannot help but worry that sleep apnea is causing permanent damage to his heart and lungs.

I have other patients like Mr. Nelson, and I’m sure there are many other Americans out there as well, who are just getting by, and maybe cutting their pills in half to make them last, and delaying medical care as they focus on more pressing matters like putting their kids through school. The health care horror stories are heart breaking, but thinking about my patients on the verge of a bad outcome or one illness away from bankruptcy, I feel impassioned to demand reform now. We cannot wait for the perfect plan. A health insurance exchange with subsidies for private insurance is not the same as a public health insurance option, but it would offer affordable coverage to Mr. Nelson. If 45,000 preventable deaths annually are attributable to lack of health insurance, the Senate bill, which covers 2/3 of the uninsured with subsidized private insurance and expanded Medicaid, could potentially save 30,000 lives. If this is not the purpose of health insurance reform, I’m not sure what is.

Many are calling for the House to pass the Senate bill, and fix issues like the level of premium subsidy via reconciliation. This won’t remake the American health care system into a model of efficiency and equitability, but it does move us from debate to action. It will help 30 million Americans who are uninsured. It will provide security to those with private insurance. It will strengthen primary care, prevention, and wellness. Waiting any longer is just not an option.

*I thank Mr. Nelson for allowing me to share his story. I have changed his name and other minor details in order to protect his privacy.

Families USA 2010

NPA doctors came out for the Families USA Health Action 2010 Conference in DC this week. Featured here are Drs. Arkoosh, Sriram, and Silver-Isenstadt at a rally in the Dirksen Senate Building. Drs. Aaron Fox, Sharon Phillips, Cameron Page, and William Jordan from our local New York group fanned out for interviews with radio talk show hosts from across the country who came for the conference.

Dr. Cameron Page on Progressive Blend Radio

Hear Dr. Page here.

Dr. Aaron Fox on Warren Ballentine Show

Long show, skip to hour 2 minute 34.

Dr. Aaron Fox on the Radio

Quoted from University of New Mexico/Talk Radio News Service on January 29, 2010 | ShareThis

Dr. Aaron Fox with the National Physicians Alliance explains what his organization does, and details how health care reform would benefit Americans. (5:32)

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January 29, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dr. Sharon Phillips on the Radio

Dr. Sharon Phillips spoke on Hard Knock Radio, out of the Pacifica affiliate in Berkeley, California.

Davey D continues to report from the Families USA Health Action 2010 Conference. First he talks with Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC) about passing legislation to help poor people and his thoughts on Katrina and Haiti. Then he talks with Democratic Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow on how Michigan will come back from this economic crisis. Finally, an interview about health care and reproductive rights with Dr. Sharon Phillips.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Haiti Benefit Success

See below for a message from our partner in the Haiti Benefit. Dr. Manisha Sharma pictured at the event.


Thanks to all those who attended our "Stand with Haiti" grassroots benefit. It was a moving night, perhaps best expressed in the words of an earthquake survivor who had just arrived in New York.

Soft-spoken and eloquent, she told her story in her native Creole. She reminded all of us how helpful each contribution was to the people of Haiti in rebuilding their nation. How she had seen so many children who were tired and sad, and who have no home to return to.

Through the generous contributions of our wonderful New York City community, we were able to raise $2,250 to help these children rebuild their future. Amity Hall, who had initially pledged 10% of their revenue, ended up donating much more, citing the worthiness of the cause.

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to them and to you. We know you took time out of your busy schedules to attend our event. And for those who could not attend, or would like to give more, please visit Partners in Health online, at

With kind regards,
Aliya Quraishi
NYC for Change

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bronx Rally

I spoke to a small but enthusiastic Bronx crowd who braved the cold to support health care reform. This was one of hundreds of coordinated rallies nationwide on Tuesday, January 26, 2010. Rep Engel sent Staffer Shirley Saunders to voice his support. -William Jordan, MD

Brooklyn Rally

Dr. Manisha Sharma spoke at the Emergency Rally for Health Care Reform on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday, January 26, 2010.

See minute 5:36 for the beginning of her speech:

Continued here:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stand with Haiti: Partners in Health Benefit

Stand with Haiti: Partners in Health Benefit
January 26, 2010
Amity Hall
80 West 3rd Street
New York NY

Co-hosted by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, National Physicians Alliance, NYCforChange, South Asians for Opportunity, Tribeca for Change, Queens for Obama, Upper West Side Baby Boomers for Obama's Agenda and Voterbook.