News Capsules (November/December 1998)

Compiled by Medical Sentinel Editors
Article Type: 
News Capsules
November/December 1998
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Managed Care (HMO) Dissatisfaction

Dissatisfaction with managed care and HMOs continues to grow. Readers of the Medical Sentinel should find of interest (but not surprising) the following aggregate of opinion polls conducted by The Wall Street Journal, Harris Polling, ABC, Newsweek, and both political parties:

The percentage of Americans that believe managed care has hurt the following aspects of medical care:

54% Long-term patient- doctor relationship; 54% Doctors (not insurance administrators) controlling treatment decisions; 50% Access to specialists; 47% Patients having enough time with doctor; 47% Informing patients about all medical options; 45% Access to all medical treatment available.

The percentage of Americans, by age group, that have switched from managed care plans to traditional insurance in the past 5 years:

18- to 29-year-olds: 24%; 30- to 49-year-olds: 32%; 50- to 64-year-olds: 23%; 65 and over: 17%.

The percentage of Americans that plan to switch from managed care plans to traditional insurance or MSAs in the next 3 years, (Medicare in the case of those over 65):

18- to 29-year-olds: 31%; 30- to 49-year-olds: 54%; 50- to 64-year-olds: 48%; 65 and over: 67%.

The percentage of Americans that want to switch from managed care to traditional insurance or MSAs:

18- to 29-year-olds: 33%; 30- to 49-year-olds: 67%; 50- to 64-year-olds: 61%.

The percentage of Americans that believe government regulation of the managed care industry is necessary:

All adults: 51%; 18- to 29-year-olds: 55%; 30- to 49-year-olds: 54%; 50- to 64-year-olds: 49%; 65 and over: 46%.


Big Government Republicans and the Budget Surplus

 “Big government is here to stay. And you can thank the GOP for that,” writes the editorial board of Investor’s Business Daily (July 20, 1998).

Perhaps our newly elected Congress will do better in reining in big government to its constitutional limitations. “Those same radical Republicans came roaring into Congress in ’95 with guns blazing...[that they] would gut the federal leviathan,” and the Deparments of Commerce, Energy, Education, the NEA, the LSC (the Legal Services Corporation, Americorps,) and hundreds of government programs would be slated for execution.

Not only are these programs still here, but, continues the editorial, “For fiscal ’98, the GOP signed off on the fattest federal budget in history, 2,200 pages long with $81 billion in new spending. Congress passed a budget $4 billion higher than even President Clinton asked for. Now for fiscal ’99, Congress gets to play with $1.7 trillion of your money.” And yet, our radical Republican revolutionaries are still nickel and dime(ing) what they will return to us in tax cuts produced from the budget surplus.

The CBO projects the surplus to be about $1.6 trillion through 2008. Although Speaker Newt Gingrich had mentioned a $1 trillion tax cut over

10 years, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Budget Committee Chairman, was insisting on a $30 billion of targeted tax cuts for favored groups over 5 years. Republicans have even used the Democrats’ lingo that they have to find ways “to pay” for the tax cuts, as if the money belonged to the government and not the taxpayers!

Hopefully, our new Congress will do better!


AMA’s $9.9 Million Sunbeam Fiasco

 The Sunbeam fiasco will cost the AMA $9.9 million. After pulling out of an agreement to endorse Sunbeam products, that many physicians and legal and business experts considered unethical, the AMA, according to AMA board chairman Randolph Smoak, Jr., M.D., wanted to close a chapter in the group’s history “once and for all.”

The AMA’s Sunbeam fiasco resulted in the dismissal or resignation of five AMA staffers and officers, including former general counsel Kirk Johnson and executive vice president Dr. P. John Seward.

The settlement averts a trial, but Dr. Arnold Relman, an AMA member and former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, stated that the settlement was a defeat for the group’s rank and file: “I think if we’d gone to trial, probably a lot more relevant information would have been uncovered and made available to the membership. As a result of this settlement, we will never know the truth of what happened. It does not let the sun shine in.” (Andrew Buchanan, Associated Press writer, August 1, 1998).


Protecting Us to Death

On July 13, 1998, General Motors was forced to recall nearly 1 million cars after 130 people were injured by malfunctioning air bags (spontaneously bursting open without any crash). Writing for the Associated Press, Catherine Strong (“Air Bags Lead to GM Recall”) contends: “It is just the latest air bag headache for the auto industry, drivers, and safety officials. Air bags that inflated in low-speed crashes have been blamed for killing 108 people, including 63 children according to government records.” Although air bags are credited with potentially saving more the 3,000 lives, we know for certain that this government mandated requirement has resulted in the death of at least 108 people including 63 children.


Diabolical Scientific Achievement

The line between genius and insanity has been obliterated in the world of biotechnology and food (“Seed Terminator and Mega-Merger Threaten Food and Freedom” by Geri Guidetti, June 11, 1998) in the following report: “On March 3, 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Delta and Pine Land Company, a Mississippi firm and the largest cotton seed company in the world, announced that they had jointly developed and received a patent (U.S. patent number 5,723,765) on a new, agricultural biotechnology. The new patent will permit its owners and licensees to create sterile seed by cleverly and selectively programming a plant’s DNA to kill its own embryos. The patent applies to plants and seeds of all species. The result? If saved at harvest for future crops, the seed produced by these plants will not grow. Pea pods, tomatoes, peppers, heads of wheat and ears of corn will essentially become seed morgues. In one broad, brazen stroke of his hand, man will have irretrievably broken the plant-to-seed-to-plant-to-seed cycle, the cycle that supports most life on the planet. No seed, no food unless you buy more seed. This is obviously good for seed companies. As it turns out, it is also good for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Apparently, oblivious to the ramifications of this diabolical scientific achievement, the USDA and the U.S. seed industry, in the words of USDA spokesman Willard Phelps, “wants this technology to be widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies. The goal is to increase the value of proprietary seed owned by U.S. seed companies and to open up new markets in Second and Third World countries.”

“The Terminator Technology is brilliant science and arguable ‘good business,’ but it has crossed the line, the tenuous line, between genius and insanity. It is a dangerous, bad idea that should be banned. Period.” (Geri Guidetti, The Ark Institute, P.O. Box 142, Oxford, OH 45064,


Another Potential Danger for Physicians?

According to The Magnet (July 1998), a publication of the MAG Mutual Insurance Company, the Y2K computer glitch may result in further medical liability for physicians and MCOs. Liability exposure may result from claims alleging damages from defective, date-sensitive equipment and “providers” who fail “to correct problems or maintain the safe operation of medical devices.”

Providers “must ensure that the devices they use to treat and diagnose patients are safe from possible adverse effects of the year 2000 (Y2K) millennium bug.” The newsletter warns: “As physicians, officers, or members of a board of directors, you could be held liable for any breakdowns in communication, supplies or care, especially those resulting in injury. And this liability may not be covered by your insurance.”


AMA’s Recruitment and Lobbying Efforts

Physician’s Weekly (July 20, 1998) reports the AMA leadership is desperate to staunch the membership hemor-rhage. Retention of members seems to be the problem.

While the AMA gains 30,000 members a year, it loses 33,000, “a rate that will leave the AMA with no members by 2023.”

Furthermore, “of the 293,624 members [nearly 40 percent of practicing physicians] the AMA claimed last year, only 178,187 are full members...only 30 percent of women physicians are members.”

But don’t despair for the AMA. As we reported in the News Capsule, “Financially, to AMA, membership may be optional” (Medical Sentinel, March/April 1998) — the AMA is in the black with its CPT government-granted publishing empire (75% of revenues) and it may not have the need for a membership to which the leadership doesn’t listen.

And guess who spent the most to lobby Congress in 1997? Not big tobacco, not Bell Atlantic, but the AMA!

AMA — $17.1 million; Philip Morris — $15.8 million; Bell Atlanta — $14.3 million.

(Source: Institute for Health Freedom, 1155 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036.)


Surgeon General in the News

During a commencement address at his alma mater, Case Western Reserve University, Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D. not only praised his preceptor, pediatrician (and communist activist) Benjamin Spock, M.D., but also called for universal health coverage, including mental health and prevention programs: “It’s going to take a national commitment to provide universal coverage...Yet another very important priority is making sure that every child has a healthy start in life...we still see significant disparities in the medical conditions of racial groups in this country. We have made a commitment — really for the first time in the history of our government — to eliminate some of [these] disparities through the health and human services department’s recently announced Initiative on Race...We’re going to have to make public health work like it’s never worked before...” (Hippocrates, August 1998, p.65.)


A Russian Folk Tale

When Joseph Stalin was on his deathbed, he called in two likely successors to test which one of the two had a better knack for ruling the country. He ordered two birds to be brought in and presented one bird to each of the two candidates.

The first one grabbed the bird, but was so afraid that the bird would free himself from his grip and fly away that he squeezed his hand very hard, and when he opened his palm, the bird was dead.

Seeing the disapproving look on Stalin’s face and being afraid to repeat his rival’s mistake, the second candidate loosened his grip so much that the bird freed himself and flew away.

Stalin looked at both of them scornfully. “Bring me a bird!” he ordered. They did.

Stalin took the bird by its legs and slowly, one by one, plucked all the feathers from the bird’s little body. Then he opened his palm. The bird was lying there naked, shivering, and helpless. Stalin looked at him, smiled gently and said, “You see...and he is even thankful for the human warmth coming out of my palm.”


Books in Brief

A History of Medicine. Volume III: Roman Medicine by Plinio Prioreschi, M.D., PhD, 1998, 771 pp., ISBN (Volume III): 1-888456-03-5, $115.00 (Hard cover), Horatius Press, P.O. Box 241527, Omaha, NE 68124-5527.

This much awaited third volume belongs in the library of every medical history buff. Dr. Prioreschi’s article, “Onward To Obscurantism,” based in part on the Preface to this tome, was published in the September/October 1998 issue of the Medical Sentinel.


The Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis by Joseph D. Sapira, M.D., edited by Jane M. Orient, M.D., Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, Maryland, 1998, 601 pp., ISBN: 0-683-07520-9, (Hard cover).

This book loaded with clinical pearls and interesting anecdotes on bedside physical diagnosis is ably edited by our Executive Director, Jane M. Orient, M.D. The new edition to be released next year promises to be even better, and it is highly recommended to those involved in teaching and supervising residents, interns, and medical students.


Unlimited Access by Gary Aldrich, Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington, DC, 1995, 222 pp., ISBN: 0-89526-454-4, $24.95 (Hard cover).

This book compliments Boy Clinton by E. Tyrrell and The Secret Life of Bill Clinton by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. In the paperback version of Unlimited Access, released earlier this year, Mr. Aldrich, a retired FBI agent contends that the FBI has become “a willing tool of a corrupt government, an agency unworthy of the people’s trust.” Unlimited Access is a sad harbinger of the scandalous revelations that still plague the Clinton administration and subvert our republic.


Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1998;3(6):198-200. Copyright © 1998 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).








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