Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Why has Dr. Sanjay Gupta got his head up his ass? Maybe he's paid to keep it there.

House Call

Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 03:36:58 AM PDT

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta took a step in the right direction by admitting to errors in the CNN hit piece on Michael Moore’s SiCKO on Larry King last night (Video courtesy of Scarce). The good doctor even praised the film saying it ‘raised awareness of an important issue.’

But herein lays a puzzle: Sanjay Gupta is a media super-star on America's premier cable news network. We know he is both courageous and not easily politically intimidated. His reporting from Iraq and New Orleans demonstrated that. He’s tackled many aspects of healthcare and science on his regular program, House Call is one of the best CNN has to offer in my view. So one has to wonder: If non-doctor, film-maker Michael Moore can raise awareness of what Gupta agrees is an important issue, doesn’t it make sense that the best known medical doctor/journalist in America could too?

Moore received thousands of healthcare horror stories in a matter of days simply by posting a brief request on a single, dinky website. What might Sanjay Gupta uncover with the might of CNN behind him and years of experience in the field, if he tried something similar? How much heat could a regular segment on his weekly show highlighting abhorrent practices, intentional abuse, and open fraud in the managed care industry put on these scum bags? How many slimy rocks could a guy like Gupta flip over?

Forget universal healthcare for a moment. Every day in America insured patients are wrestling with their carriers to get the coverage they've already paid for, often when those same patients are barely clinging to life. Meanwhile, many medium sized MD practices employ one or two people whose sole task is to beg health insurance companies to pay for the services rendered – often unsuccessfully -- and which their patients are ostensibly covered for, and to plea for authorization for critical medical referrals. These aren't anomalies, this isn't unusual, and it goes on all day long. Are we to believe that CNN or Doctor Gupta were grossly unaware of this until Michael Moore opened their eyes?

That’s simply not plausible. Hell, it’s ridiculous to entertain for a second. The documented cases and whispered complaints from doctors and patients against managed care are legendary, numerous, and outrageous. The hideous standard practices of these for profit managed care insurance companies hurt virtually everyone in the nation -- with the exception of the most privileged, wealthy Americans who can afford private care. And the general consensus among most of those doctors and patients I’ve read about or spoken with ranges from intense frustration, to those who fancy seeing the CEOs, lobbyists, and other enablers spend the rest of their lives in prison for the horrors they’ve perpetrated on thousands of customers, or their grieving, surviving loved ones.

Is it too much to ask that working Americans who pony up exorbitant premiums to for-profit health insurance companies get every nickel and dime of service they have coming, with no bullshit games and infamous stalling tactics? Is it unreasonable for the most recognized medical doctor/reporter in America to go to bat for his fellow MDs, specialists, and clinical labs who regularly complain they are swindled right and left out of their rightful earnings paid on a timely basis by the very insurance companies that have contracted with those practices? Doesn’t that sound like a regular feature, a sort of Sixty Minutes of healthcare, that would be of enormous interest to viewers? Dr Gupta seems to agree it’s an issue that needs to be raised, so why hasn’t he done so? What is stopping him?

Americans are suffering, some are dying, doctors are not being paid on time or in full, fees go to collections, credit ratings are ruined, nurses, junior doctors, and MAs are laid off. These doctors and patients aren’t asking for a handout. They’re looking for help in breaking down the immense corporate power structure that denies and bribes and eagerly drags its feet on legitimate claims. That help is not going to come from Congress or the WH anytime soon, not without a searchlight of shame shining on them: Too many lawmakers, left, right, and center have been bought and paid for by the healthcare lobbies like a pound of butter.

Forcing HMOs and other managed care companies to treat doctors and patients with something other than complete disregard and utter contempt, safe in the knowledge they have bought political and legal immunity, will only come from the grass roots up. Sanjay Gupta is uniquely positioned to be the leading focal point of that movement. Instead his producers chose to turn the Hippocratic Oath on its head and run yet another mundane, error ridden hit piece on Michael Moore.

The real irony for Dr. Gupta as both a healer and journalist is this: If he and CNN were even marginally successful in effecting badly needed change and reform in our corrupt healthcare system, they could well save as many lives and ease as much suffering as some of the greatest medical researchers and doctors in history, they could do so without donning a lab coat or a pair of surgical gloves; they would be national heroes. The choice of course is their’s alone; sadly, the consequences of it will be borne by all of us.

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