A Physician Gives Thanks

While improvements sorely needed in health care system, one doctor recalls the blessings

Our country has a wonderful tradition: Thanksgiving. It’s a time to take stock, look back, and appreciate the good in our lives.

We have just come off a very tumultuous election that left much of this country disappointed and sore. Many others are looking in a different direction — hoping to bring reasonable answers to immigration concerns, entitlement commitments, threats from terrorism, deficit spending, and — my particular area of interest — health care coverage issues.

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For the last 42 years, as a physician, I have been on both on the giving and receiving end of medicine. I have endured the flood of new federal mandates, such as coding guidelines, chart documentations, and justifications that either add extra time to my day or, more importantly, take me away from my patients. Then there are the increasing expectations of patients. Many forget that the practice of medicine is a science in which outcomes are not guaranteed.

Being a doctor was never meant to be fun — but it was meant to be fulfilling. These changes are eating away at the core of why most of us chose this noble profession.

I’ve also witnessed a real attempt to bring health care coverage to a segment of the population that either couldn’t afford it or, because of preexisting conditions, couldn’t get it. Before the advances in health care delivery drove the costs up, the caregivers and the hospitals often adsorbed any uncollected expenses. Now these patients flood our emergency facilities or delay treatment, causing an even larger burden on our financially strapped delivery system.

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) met some of those goals, insuring almost 20 million more people. The problems of escalating costs and loss of choice of one’s doctor made repeal of the legislation one of the most important topics in this last election. Although the ACA is in trouble, any reform or changes in the law must take into account the coverage of preexisting conditions, as well as the ability of young adults to remain covered under their parents’ plans.

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I have also been on the receiving end of health care, undergoing treatment for several illnesses and operations for life-threatening problems. Because of the diagnostic and therapeutic advances and the persistent dedication of those who cared for me, I have been able to move on with my life. Of equal importance were my faith and the support of my family.

Despite the growing regulatory mandates and depersonalization, I am so blessed to have had a stent put into one of my atherosclerotic cardiac vessels on a Friday and be able to return to work the following Monday. For that I am thankful during this Thanksgiving season!

Rob Tenery, M.D., is a Dallas-based ophthalmologist and writer, and the third in three generations of physicians.

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