By Rick Ungar
Sally Pipes, the President & CEO of the Koch Brothers funded Pacific Research Institute (which also received or currently receives hefty amounts of cash from corporations such as PhRMA, Pfizer and Exxon Mobile), recently shared her view of the findings of a Deloitte survey of America’s physicians, offering the study up as the latest proof of how Obamacare is destroying the nation’s health care system.
The article, entitled “Doctors Say Obamacare Is No Remedy For U.S. Health Woes“, published right here on Forbes.com, is just the latest entry in the stepped up efforts by opponents of the healthcare reform law to bring the issue back to the fore as we enter the election season.
Having reviewed the survey prior to reading Ms. Pipes’ article, I came away from the Pipes piece wondering if I had, somehow, misread the results of the Deloitte poll. Or, I wondered, was it possible that Ms. Pipes was simply cherry-picking the data to continue her ever-escalating tirade against the Affordable Care Act? Such a move would hardly come as a shock given the Pacific Research Institute’s history of questionable studies such as those presented in their failed effort to get rid of California’s clean air regulations or the Institute’s early efforts to fabricate research in support of the tobacco companies (although the highly suspect relationship with Phillip Morris began prior to Ms. Pipe’s arrival at the Institute.)
I also could not help but notice that Pipes never actually linked to the report she had chosen to write about so that readers could review the findings on their own – often a sure sign that the author might be a little uncomfortable with all the data included in such a study.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Ms. Pipes did not accurately represent the findings she chose to include in her piece. I am, however, saying that her report stops well short of conveying all of the findings in the survey—findings that cast the study’s results in a much different light.
Now that I have provided a link to the actual study (see above), I whole-heartedly suggest that interested readers take a look at the results so that you might achieve a more well-rounded point of view as to what our doctors really think about Obamacare – both good and bad. It is an easy study to review and well worth a look.
But for those who may not enjoy reading such data, allow me to add a few details that somehow escaped Ms. Pipes’ discussion—
To conduct the poll, Deloitte sent out 16,537 invitations to physicians asking them to participate in the survey. Of those invited, 501 responses were included in the findings (the target amount of data the researchers were seeking) with an additional 352 doctors responding but whose replies did not make it into the final results.
When the response to such a wide mailing is this limited, there is always a bit of concern for the validity of the data as those who choose to participate tend to be among the most virulent in their opinions (whether for or against) and may not represent a particularly good cross section of the physician community as a whole.
Nevertheless, the results are interesting and revealing— particularly the information Ms. Pipes chose not to share.
For example, there is the finding that 44 percent of the physicians surveyed believe that the ACA is a ‘good start’ to reforming our health care system while an equal number believe it is a step in the wrong direction, leaving 12 percent who just don’t know what to think.
Yet, Ms. Pipes writes –
Few people know more about our healthcare system than doctors working on the frontlines. Policymakers should pay heed to their indictment of Obamacare and revisit the disastrous law.What Pipes must have meant to say is that policymakers should pay heed to the indictment of the 44 percent surveyed who believe the law is taking us in the wrong direction while completely ignoring the other 44 percent whose verdict does not jive with the political agenda of the Pacific Research Institute and its funding sources.
If these numbers—which clearly represent a highly divided point of view—sound familiar to you, it may be because they so closely mirror the general public’s feelings about the law. And when you consider that the survey results indicated that 71 percent of those participating considered themselves to be only “somewhat informed” as to what is contained in the ACA, this all begins to make even more sense.
The results get even more interesting when you break down those who were supportive or opposed to the health care reform law by medical practice types.
Forty-four percent of primary care physicians believe that Obamacare was a move in the right direction as compared to 39 percent who do not. Non-surgical specialist also came to this conclusion by a margin of 53 percent to 36 percent. Other physicians (those who do not fit into the categories of primary care, non-surgical specialist or surgical specialist) are overwhelmingly supportive of the notion that the ACA was a good beginning by a ratio of 68-32.
Indeed, the only category of physicians where we find more physicians believing that the ACA was a step in the wrong direction are the surgical specialist who believe the law is bad news by a wide margin of 60 percent to 28 percent.
Another piece of data that somehow escaped Ms. Pipes’ attention was the overwhelming agreement (60 percent were supportive) among the physicians surveyed that evidence-based medicine as a national standard would improve the quality of care in America.
I’m just guessing, but this might have something to do with the Pacific Research Institute’s professed belief that evidence-based medicine, particularly when used as a national standard for practicing medicine, is a part of the whole death panel scenario and an evil to be avoided at all costs. Thus, when the doctors who will be subject to this practice support the idea, this certainly can’t be a good thing for those who share Ms. Pipes’ perspective, particularly the pharmaceutical companies who fill the coffers of the Pacific Research Institute.
Pipes’ rendition of the Deloitte Survey only serves to reinforce what we all should recognize as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s health care system—- gross politicization of the issue for the benefit of the special interests. While Pipes is absolutely correct in her acknowledgment that the opinion of the nation’s physicians should hold a special place in the debate, what good is that opinion when writers like Sally Pipes twist and skew what these physicians have to say to better fit a political agenda?
So do yourself a favor and read the Deloitte survey.
You may, ultimately, see some of the data as a condemnation of the Affordable Care Act or, like me, you might conclude that the data highlights the areas where we need to continue our focus to meet the challenges that remain in front of us while recognizing that a significant number of physicians view the law as an important step forward in effort to help more Americans access the care they need.
However you interpret the data, the fact remains that the longer we continue to form our opinions on health care policy based on ideology and the care and feeding of special interests, the longer it will take to come up with a system that can actually work for all Americans.
That is still the point, isn’t it?