This week, CSA Online First features two viewpoints on the Democratic Governors Association convention, the first written by Paul Yost, M.D., Chair of LPAD, and the second written by Kenneth Pauker, M.D., CSA President. Each author shares his own, complementary perspective on the day.
As part of my duties as the Chair of the CSA Legislative and Practice Affairs Division, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to positively impact the specialty of anesthesiology and field of medicine by engaging in the political process. When I recently received an email about the upcoming Democratic Governors Association (DGA) meeting in Southern California, it seemed like a great opportunity.
Not knowing what to expect, I donned my dark suit (suitable for most political occasions), blue tie (after all it is the Democratic Governor’s Association), and headed north with my good friend and colleague, CSA President Dr. Kenneth Pauker. We arrived at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons, situated at the end of Rodeo Drive, where a breakfast consisting of two bagels, jalapeno cream cheese, lox, fruit and coffee will set you back about seventy dollars. This has to be one of the priciest addresses and hotels around. The venue seemed a little out of place for the party of the working class.
How would I describe the event? Well… blue. All of the background colors were blue, the carpets were blue, the furniture was blue, and the faces of many of the politicians were blue too. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe they had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs, but there was a lot of blue. The event started with a high priced donor’s breakfast, which we skipped in favor or our own donor’s breakfast (to the hotel). The meat of the meeting consisted of three round table policy discussions, featuring governors from several states mixed with experts from the field. The topics were energy, budgets, and technology. The MC and host was the always upbeat Democratic stalwart, Bill Press. Each of the governors had the opportunity to respond to softball questions lobbed by Mr. Press and show what their state is doing to make the lives better for their constituents. What was most striking about these exchanges was what was missing: a microphone so the audience could ask questions. This was a tightly controlled, scripted affair with no opportunity for the audience to ask questions like, “How are doctors going to continue to provide health care when you keep cutting the amount you pay?” This event was a showcase of ideas that the DGA hope will improve the lives of their constituents and their political futures. Their slogan this year: Jobs. Opportunity. Now.
What was clear when healthcare was mentioned, especially as part of the budget and technology discussions, was that the governors really don’t have a great fund of knowledge about patients, doctors, or how to deliver cost effective, high quality health care. How did I feel about the event? A little blue too. My own group was short on manpower that day, and one of my colleagues had to work post call so that I could attend this event. I spent 70 dollars of non-tax deductible income on breakfast. I missed a day of work and income, and I didn’t have an opportunity to influence the political debate about healthcare. The closest I came to discussing anesthesia was with a woman who said she used to be a drug rep; now, she is a lobbyist for the prison guards. However, I do feel strongly that we as anesthesiologists do need to get out of the operating room and pain clinic and be visible in political process. As doctors, we must step up and take control. If we don’t, we will be controlled. We need to be at the table lest we find ourselves on the menu.