Obama’s Former Physician: Not This ‘Bogus Plan’

Dr. David Scheiner wants to make a house call to one of the most famous houses in the world.

For 22 years, he was President Obama’s doctor. Now, he would like to counsel his former patient and says the President should be doing more to heal the system’s ills by holding out for a single-payer approach to health reform.

The Chicago internist says that what’s needed is a system modeled after Medicare. He maintains that true reform will not occur as long as health care is viewed as a medical-industrial complex.”

Scheiner appeared at a Washington press conference with other supporters of his brand of reform and spoke with KHN’s Andrew Villegas afterwards.

Q: If President Obama asked you for advice on how he should change health reform, what would you tell him?

A: The first thing he has to do is… inform the public what [the health overhaul] is all about. The public still doesn’t understand. Even people in the health professions don’t understand… He has not really addressed the role of government in medicine. There’s this feeling about government being bad … in medicine. That’s not really the case.

Q: Has he given in to political pressure?

A: He’s being too much of a pragmatist in this situation. I think he should go to the people above the heads of Congress and get a groundswell of the public — send his people out all over the country to support a real health reform and not this bogus plan. The question that has to be decided is [whether the] health industry [is] to promote jobs and growth as it is – it’s one of the growth industries in this country – or is it supposed to provide health care? It may not be exactly the same thing. Providing effective, quality health care at an efficient cost may not be the great industrial growth mechanism it presently is. It is a medical-industrial complex and it has to be changed. I don’t know if he’s changing it.

Q: How do you think the President’s experiences with the health care system — his own and those of his relatives — have shaped his views?

A: He has talked about the problem that his own mother had when she was dying of ovarian cancer and she had [trouble] getting the insurance company to cover her properly. I would have thought that kind of experience would have had an indelible mark on him. I wouldn’t have come back and asked the insurance companies to participate in the program.

Q: Are you hopeful that Obama will reach out to you to talk about it?

A: I’m praying that will happen. You know, he may not agree with me, but I’d like to get my ideas across. I feel passionately about this. I think this is a moral issue: 50 million uninsured people. He can take the high moral ground and say ‘I know this may not be popular right now, but I’m going to work on this… [even] if it takes me three years.’ To say ‘Well, we have to have a bill August 1,’ It’s ridiculous.