Sunday, August 03, 2008

PAC Cash for Doctors Howard, Fine, & Howard?

As you might have guessed, I am not a big fan of the AMA. Actually, let me be a bit more clear --- I think the AMA is an organization that is doing its best to destroy the best medical care system in the world. What many folks outside of medicine do not know is that although the AMA counts only about a quarter of US physicians amongst its members, it controls every county and state medical society in the country. It's sort of a pyramid scheme --- to belong to the national organization (the AMA itself), one first must be a member of one's county and state medical societies. That way, everybody's palms get greased along the way up the ladder, and policy positions are passed back down the ladder.

Now, I don't really want anything to do with the AMA, which promotes political positions that are far to the left. In fact, I would prefer not to belong to my state medical society for the same reasons. However, the only real malpractice insurance carrier in the state is one that works hand-in-hand with the state medical society.....and they charge an extra premium for non-society members. I wrote the president of this non-profit organization about this, asking a very simple question: am I a better risk for them as an insurer simply because I may belong to the state medical society? The answer I received, in almost three typed pages, was no.....but that didn't matter. If I quit the state society, I'd pay about $5,000 extra per year; of course, once again, that means I must remain a member of the county society as well, for reasons outlined above.

Most of the time, this stuff is just an irritant, a pebble in my shoe. Occasionally, the state society does something really stupid, and the pebble feels like K2 (image source). Here's a case in point --- an e-mail I received from the state medical society's political action committee:

Doctor,

Will there be a Doctor in the House? Not if the trial lawyers get their way.

Our colleague and Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives, Dr. Vinny BoomBots, is being hit hard by a challenger who is largely financed by personal injury lawyers.

This is a text book campaign tactic, an 11th hour full court press by a well-heeled adversary who will attempt to flood the district with negative attacks on the eve of the primary, leaving little time for Vinny to raise sufficient funds to counter.

Time is short, the election is August 12 and a lot is at stake. Vinny can't raise overnight the funds from his supporters to match a handful of wealthy trial lawyers who can generate campaign cash with a card swipe at an ATM.

Vinny needs our help. Now. Please send your personal check TODAY (corporate checks are prohibited by law). The suggested contribution is $400.00 (maximum allowed by law) but we know that Vinny will appreciate any amount you can give.

OK. Asking for campaign contributions is no sin. But I would have to say that asking me to give money to a candidate solely based on the fact that both he and I happen to have a medical degree is ludicrous. But I have absolutely no earthly idea what else this guy may or may not stand for.....and isn't that what we are supposed to be considering when we give money to a candidate? What if the guy happens to be an exceedingly competent physician but also a committed socialist? What are his positions other than those which directly affect medicine? Plus, as the e-mail noted, this guy is running as a Democrat and is making a stink about his opponent's financing coming from a core Democrat constituency ---- trial lawyers. Uh, you think the good doctor, as a Democrat, would be swearing off trial lawyer money if this was the general election? Not a snowball's chance in Hillary's Satan's lair.

This got me thinking. What if other physicians in need of a few bucks for a campaign were able to get the state medical society's PAC to solicit funds from their colleagues? The e-mails might read like this:

Doctor, Will there be a doctor in the jail? There will be if if the DA gets his way. Our colleague and murderer Dr. Jack Kevorkian is being hit hard by an attorney who is largely financed by the taxpayers of Michigan. This is a textbook trial tactic, a full court press by a well-heeled adversary who will attempt to flood the courtroom with facts, leaving Jack little wiggle room to stay out of the hoosegow. Jack needs an expensive lawyer to help; dig deep!

Doctor, Won't you please help? Our colleague Hawley Crippen is running for the state senate, but he is being vastly outspent by a well-heeled opponent. We physicians need to stick together; don't let that nastiness that may or may not have take place in London cloud your mind. Give now, give the maximum, and get all of your friends to do the same. After all, he is a doctor, don't you know!

Doctor,

Will there be a Doctor in the House? Not if the prudes get their way. Our colleague and canditate for the state House of Reperesenatives, Dr. I Got Charged with Solicitation while I was Chairman of the Dept of Surgery (yes, Virginia, this is the only true part of this story), is being hit hard by a challenger who is largely financed by law and order types. This is a textbook campaign tactic, a full court press by a challenger getting googobs of money from ordinary people who don't want a perv in the statehouse. Time is short, and our colleague could use all the cash you have on hand (especially $20 bills -- easy to use when he's lonely). Give, give, give!

Bollocks! We as a society --- the US, that is --- are best off when we vote for candidates that reflect all or most of our values. Just because someone is a physician certainly does not mean that he or she is someone I would want to, or should, vote for. The same goes for any demographic you can think of ---- race, gender, occupation, etc. I am sad to say that my state medical society takes my cash and churns our rubbish like this. One day, I fully expect to get an email promoting these guys for high office: