Bob Franken

Orrin Hatch Demagoguing Bureaurats Supporting Insuracrats


There are many reasons that so many people admire Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, whatever their political persuasion. One is that he is intellectually honest — you can’t call him a demagogue. Although it was tempting yesterday.

It is fair to say that, during a Fox News interview Tuesday, he slipped into some demagoguery when he was so consumed by partisan zeal that he uttered one of those oft-repeated simple-minded comments that so intentionally distort the health care debate. We hear it all the time from those who want to beat back any reform supported by President Obama.

You ready? Here it comes: “They want to put bureaucrats between you and your doctor!”

Let’s go over this one more time. There already are bureaucrats between you and your doctor. They work for the insurance companies. Their job is to veto any medical decisions that cut into their employers’ profit. If that isn’t getting between you and your doctor, nothing is. From here on out, let’s call them “insuracrats.”

Furthermore, there really should be people between you and your doctor. Somebody needs to protect against the MD who orders the unnecessary test, not just to fend off a malpractice suit, which is a mealy-mouthed excuse, but because he can make more money with it. The same goes for the physician who has a sweetheart deal with the pharmaceutical company that throws money and cushy trips his way, or the one who pursues a particular treatment without exploring others simply because it fits into his specialty or skill set.

However, if we should have learned one thing by now, it’s that the insuracrats are not there to guarantee proper care. They are there to stand between you and reasonable coverage.

What we need is some sort of trustworthy professional group with the power to monitor a doctor’s track record, to publicize what’s effective care for particular maladies and what’s not. It should enforce much better coordination between providers instead of the dangerously fragmented anarchy we have now. Of course, this has been proposed. Guess who hates the idea? (Hint: Marcus Welby.)

Similarly, the words “prevention instead of treatment” should become more than a cliche. We should require that doctors emphasize the approach even if it’s less lucrative to them.

Not only do we need someone to stand between patients and doctors, we also need protection from all the politicians who are trumpeting the selfish interests of their campaign contributors.

Actually, that has to be all of us, who must learn to recognize the irresponsible catchphrases for what they are: demagoguery.

Unfortunately, such appeals to emotion are effective. They can easily influence those who are confused by such a complex issue and frightened by change.

This is fertile ground for those interested in this only as a Democrat-Republican, win-lose battle between one side and another. Regrettably, the rest of us will be their collateral damage.

At some point we will need some statesmanship from individuals who are capable of it. People like Orrin Hatch. If we don’t get it, we all lose. We will continue to be at the mercy of the insuracrats.

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