Waiting room blues

Art Buchwald

August 19, 1993|By Art Buchwald

THE U.S. health situation has been studied and restudied. Every part of it has been analyzed under a microscope. But the one area being ignored under Hillary Clinton's plan is how long you will have to wait to see a doctor.

Milton Ramrod, M.D., is the first to study the effects of waiting for a doctor on a person's health.

"Our studies indicate that the longer you wait for a doctor, the sicker you feel. To prove this, we conducted an experiment. We filled the outer office with patients. Then we called the name of one and he entered the doctor's office with a jaunty, light step.

"The last person was called eight hours later. His blood pressure was soaring, he was frothing at the mouth, and he could hardly tell the doctor what was wrong. We concluded that all these symptoms began in the waiting room and had to be treated along with the ailment the patient already had."

"Is there any cure for waiting for a doctor?"

"Not under the government plan. You can't have Washington involved without people sitting around. Waiting is the price we pay for good federal health care."

"How do we know if it's going to be good? As I understand it, many of the best doctors are going to refuse to take patients who hand in their government vouchers."

"The government has to assume that every doctor in the plan is a good doctor and therefore worth waiting for. It also feels that any doctor who won't sign up for the national health plan is a bad doctor and not worth waiting for. He should be avoided like the plague."

"Do your studies show how long under the government plan a person may be forced to wait to see a doctor?"

"We have no scientific data on that, but we estimate that it could be anywhere between three weeks and six months. We project that waiting for a doctor will be one of the favorite pastimes of most American citizens."

"How do you think this will work out?"

"Well, let's say that you need a hip replacement operation. You'll get a lottery number. If your number is called, you get the operation. It's fair and everyone has the same chance to be operated on."

"Suppose you want a second opinion?"

"You can get one by applying to a member of the Supreme Court."

"Do your studies predict that the average person will be getting better medical treatment than they do now?"

"Not so far. You see, a great deal of the national health care plan will be run by people not necessarily trained in medicine. They will decide who gets anesthesia and who doesn't, as well as how much a hernia operation will cost.

"The only drawback is if they say that a hernia operation is worth $25, then the surgeon may give them a $25 operation. On the other hand, if you can't afford it, a $25 hernia operation is better than no operation at all."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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