The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights”

Today, June 10, marks a landmark in reproductive rights and women’s sexual independence — the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Pill. Somewhat embarrassingly, my perspective of reproductive rights has always been largely self-centered, stemming from my own reproductive needs of the moment. From when I became sexually active until I became pregnant with my son, that was the need to avoid pregnancy.

A longtime committed proponent of access to sexual education and contraception, I view the abortion issue rather simplistically: Like it or not, abortions are going to happen; therefore, they must be kept safe and legal. My likely romanticized image of the sexual revolution of the 1960s is one of women finally being able to explore their sexuality without fear of pregnancy. For much of my life, these ideas and goals were things I believed in largely because they dovetailed so seamlessly with my own interests.

Only when my reproductive needs changed did my narrow-minded perspective broaden a bit. This is probably utterly obvious to everyone else, but I did not realize until my pregnancy and the birth of my son that reproductive rights include the right to choose not only whether to reproduce, but also how to reproduce.
Continue reading “The Politics of Birth: How I Learned the True Meaning of “Reproductive Rights””

A Socialist Primer: Rick Perry, Health Care & the Governor’s Race

Perry-RallyI’m wondering what it’s going to take for my former colleagues in the Texas press corps to call out Rick Perry for using the term “socialism” over-and-over to describe the insurance reform Congress passed last week.

Either Perry and reporters covering him don’t know what socialism is (and I doubt that), or Perry again is pushing  Tea Bag propaganda, and the press is too lazy or too intimidated to challenge it.

I’m used to Perry embarrassing Texas. So, I’m not surprised he’s parroting Dolph Briscoe’s old obsession with “creeping socialism.”  Thankfully, we’ve moved beyond the 1970s, though you wouldn’t know it from the Cold War rhetoric in a statement Perry released last Sunday and sound bites he repeated later in the week. Continue reading “A Socialist Primer: Rick Perry, Health Care & the Governor’s Race”

The State of Massachusetts

Scott Brown

I sit here in a coffee shop in idyllic Beverly, Massachusetts—birthplace of the American Navy–a little town just outside of Boston. I’m here to visit my friend “Veronica.” She’s a woman after my own heart. She writes like a dream and is the only other thirty-something year old woman I know who happily lives in what is basically a dorm room.

She and I met when she lived in Texas, but Massachusetts is her birthplace, and it’s also the perfect place for her to pursue her lifelong dream of being a writer. She works just enough to cover her very minimal expenses and yet she still has quality healthcare provided by the state. “In Massachusetts,” she says, “I can have an interesting life.” In Texas, she would be compelled to work a full-time job that wouldn’t suit her considerable passion and talents, merely in order to have healthcare.

But here in Massachusetts, with healthcare provided, she commits her days to writing, except for Tuesdays when she takes care of a severely autistic 39 year-old man. Not incidentally, the man’s parents moved to Massachusetts from California specifically because Massachusetts has some of the best support and care in the nation for people with special needs.

More at the jump…. Continue reading “The State of Massachusetts”

The Senator’s Letter

John Cornyn
John Cornyn

It all started with an email from John Cornyn in my inbox, explaining why he was going to fight to the end to protect me from health reform. Where did he get my address?

Well, it made my blood boil. And I think that would be a pre-existing condition for me when it comes to contemporary Republicans and health insurance. So I responded, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he was NOT representing me in his actions, that I doubted that he took the time to listen to ANY of his actual constituents to find out if he was representing them, and called him a prostitute for the corporations who fund his lifetime job through contributions to his political campaigns. Well, after calling someone a whore I don’t expect a reply but I got one today, likely a form answer from an aide. “Who’s going to do the health care pile responses?” “Oh, let me!”

The ‘Senator’s letter’ and my response are below.

Continue reading “The Senator’s Letter”

Is the Health Care Debate Ruining Our Health?

doctor2214627c9qk8If you feel like I do, the ongoing health care debate has been confusing, wrenching and alienating. Such stress is, the docs tell us, bad for our health. So the debate itself is probably driving up health care demand as lawmakers seek to improve care for millions of us. Some kind of compromise appears to have been reached in the Senate, so maybe we are entering the home stretch. One can hope.

What are the sources of the stress? It’s disorienting to have so many of my fellow citizens talking about sacrificing my health so insurance companies can make more money. The immorality of those arguing against reform is so stark, so cruel, so blind, so downright stupid. This summer we were treated to the spectacle of thousands of suckers doing what the health insurance lobby told them to do. “Hey, get some teabags and go publicly protest improving the health of your family and your neighbors,” they were told. And that’s what they did, good little sheep that they are.

Few political issues carry the moral gravity of health care, which is why politicians would rather do anything than talk about the moral issues at stake. Instead, they talk about money. And not our money, but the money of an insurance industry that already makes so much from denying coverage and care that it can afford to spend millions a week protecting its goose and all its golden eggs.

While morally weighty, health care isssues are really not all that complex. They are complexified by the industry and the politicians on purpose, all the better to hide the simple fact that the powers that be in the wealthiest democracy on earth are intentionally denying care to millions of citizens. In the name of what? They’d rather not say, because the only answer is the insurance lobby that gives them millions of dollars — earned through the sacrifice of millions of lives — so they can be re-elected.

Continue reading “Is the Health Care Debate Ruining Our Health?”

False Positives and Negatives in Health Care

NY Daily News MammogramMost doctors recommend regular checkups for their patients. A physical is designed to screen for the issues that most commonly threaten our health; often this involves doing lab tests, x-rays, and, at certain times in life, procedures such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and tests for heart disease. Sometimes these tests result in what are referred to as “false positives” and “false negatives.”

Despite all of our technological advances, screening techniques are not perfect and, in a small percentage of cases, yield information that may be inaccurate. Doctors call these results false positives or negatives because they can Continue reading “False Positives and Negatives in Health Care”

How to Find Bargains in Health Care

Here are some cost-saving ideas patients can take to their doctors for physicals, lab tests, and more

Vaccination photoMany of my patients are as concerned with costs as with the state of their health. Because of that, I work with them to make sure health care is both affordable and comprehensive. By far, the cheapest form of health care is prevention. So in my practice, I focus on intercepting disease or health issues as early as possible or preventing them altogether. It does not take much to be a little creative. Here are some cost-saving ideas patients can take to their doctors.

Physicals do not have be administered exactly every 12 months. There is nothing wrong with getting checkups every 15 to 18 months –– a process I call “straddling.” For instance, many of my patients will come in for physicals this fall, and if they are healthy, we will not schedule their next physical until early 2011. Yet only 13 to 16 months will transpire between physicals, allowing the patient to “straddle” two calendar years –– from late 2009 to early 2011. They get 2010 off, and they won’t have to deal with paying out to cover their deductible in that year. This is especially helpful to individuals with high deductibles.

Continue reading “How to Find Bargains in Health Care”

South Austin Community Acupuncture: the Other Health Care Revolution

South Austin Community Acupuncture
South Austin Community Acupuncture

In the halls of Congress, politicians debate health care reform as the American public waits anxiously and often skeptically to see how things turn out. In South Austin, the folks at South Austin Community Acupuncture are doing their part to bring about an entirely different kind of health care revolution.

Walk into the treatment room at South Austin Community Acupuncture and what you’ll see looks more like a living room than a clinic, with people relaxing —and often snoozing — while they receive acupuncture in comfy old recliners clustered around the large room. These patients pay for their treatment on a sliding scale based on their income. Continue reading “South Austin Community Acupuncture: the Other Health Care Revolution”

One Doctor’s Orders: 8 Ways to Treat Health-Care Reform

Our health care system is in critical condition, and Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to put it back in the recovery room. Here are the key issues I would like to see in a final health care bill.

Mayo Brothers
The Mayo Brothers

Our health care system is in critical condition, and Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to put it back in the recovery room. Here are the key issues I would like to see in a final health care bill.

1. Shift the debate from saving money to saving lives.

Currently, our health system is designed for disease care rather than health care. Instead of focusing on keeping people healthy, the system would rather focus on treating disease and illness, often prolonging the unprolongable. For example, Medicare provides reimbursements for lab tests and x-rays only when the doctor issues a diagnosis. As a physician, I find that totally backwards –– I order tests to determine a diagnosis, rather than the other way around.

Continue reading “One Doctor’s Orders: 8 Ways to Treat Health-Care Reform”

The Reality Check Checkup

225px-Hippocrates_rubensOur bodies act as vehicles, and as with most vehicles, there are maintenance schedules that, if followed, can ensure them to remain in the best possible shape for as long as possible. I like to tell my patients that we do not wait for planes to crash before tuning them up –– we check everything before even starting the engines to maximize the probability for the best outcome. No one quibbles about the cost of aircraft maintenance.

This approach can be applied to the human body as well. I’m a believer in verifying health rather than merely assuming it. and the only way to verify health is by performing regular, thorough health “maintenance.” For our bodies, the tune-up is a physical every 12 to 18 months. Over the years, I’ve developed the Reality Check Checkup, a comprehensive physical that I conduct for every patient. After more than 25 years of seeing patients, I have found that this nontraditional approach keeps my patients healthy and out of my office or the hospital.

Continue reading “The Reality Check Checkup”