We have gone through months of excitement, anticipating the climactic event of
the year 2000. But now that the Nebraska-Oklahoma game is history, it's time
to turn attention to Election Day, November 7.
By Michael J. Katin, MD
We continue to have trends toward simplification of issues. This results
in the major candidates having what seems to be blatant ignorance of medical
issues, either despite or because of their having attended Ivy League institutions.
Maybe this is a trend towards simplification that is dramatically illustrated
by the decrease in the length of Presidential names, from Washington (10
letters) and Jefferson (9 letters) to Lincoln (7 letters) to the next President
being only the second to have a name as short as 4 letters. Nader
(5 letters) and, especially, Buchanan
(8 letters), don't stand a chance. Maybe Kenny G will run in 2004. But I
digress. There is little incentive for the candidates to address the issues
important to us as Oncologists, since most of the voting public doesn't
care about its health until it goes bad. But perhaps we now have a golden
opportunity to get their attention.
This occurred to me at the 2000 ASTRO meeting, when the meeting schedule on
October 24th was disrupted to allow Senator Edward Kennedy to speak. Why
was he there? His re-election to the Senate is taken for granted, against a
Republican disowned by his own party. Certainly nobody expects
Massachusetts to swing out of the Gore column.
No, the reason suddenly became obvious. Every poll has been showing a
virtual dead heat not only between Mr.
Bush and Mr. Gore
but also indicates a reasonable chance that both the Senate and House of
Representatives may be split 50-50. I realized that he had come to address
the largest block of potential voters that could be isolated on that date.
I'm not the shrewdest political brain in the world. For example, my suggestion
for handling prescription drugs for seniors is to have the government charter
large buses to take them to Mexico to buy cheap drugs, rather than have
some complicated system of reimbursing different percentages depending on
their income, age, and astrological sign. But I still knew why Senator Kennedy
had come to see us.
As it turns out, his efforts probably backfired since the several changes in
the schedule to accommodate him resulted in wrecking the plans of hundreds
of people in terms of intersecting with colleagues, interviewing job
applicants, browsing the exhibit hall, and even attending educational
sessions. I don't think we even got CME for his session, although all I
remember from it is that the Democrats will make sure it's OK for us to give
pain medications to our patients.
But as long as we're now being courted, we might as well make the most
of it. The endorsement of David Hussey could be as valuable as that of other
celebrities (the Oak Ridge Boys and Marilyn
Manson for Bush, Cher and Stevie Wonder for Gore). Most importantly,
we might even have a chance to negotiate for concessions to our advantage.
I can imagine the short list: daily management fees; special codes for more
sophisticated procedures, such as IMRT; accelerated depreciation for new
equipment; and government subsidies for RTT training.
What we'll probably settle for: please don't hurt us too badly with the
next HCFA guidelines.