President Trump is a wartime president marshalling all the resources of the federal government in the fight against Covid-19. But his foot-soldiers aren’t primarily part of the U.S. Defense Department — instead they are doctors and physicians in communities all across the country.
When the pandemic ends — and it will — and Congress returns to work on Surprise Medical Billing, we shouldn’t forget the sacrifices that doctors made to protect us, as well as our loved ones.
Dr Matthews — Emergency Room Physician
Take Dr. Zara Matthews an emergency medicine physician in San Mateo, California and working at the San Mateo Medical Center. She received her medical degree from Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and hasn’t even been in practice for 10 years.
Despite all of the apprehensions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, this mother of a toddler who is also 34 weeks pregnant has been working tirelessly to protect her patients.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy.
This requires extra care on her part making sure to wear gloves and a mask at all times.
Her efforts don’t stop when her shift ends.
She changes out of her work clothes at the end of each day, showers again when she returns home and then puts on a new set of clothes before interacting with anyone in her family.
Dr. Toevs — Trauma Surgeon and ICU Co-Director
And what of Dr. Christine Carter Toevs in Indiana?
She has worked in medicine for more than 30 years, and now she has to be extra careful about bringing home illnesses that could affect her husband who has diabetes and respiratory issues.
"Do I run the risk of bringing it home? Sure. But I also believe God is sovereign in the universe. There is a plan, he is in complete control," Dr. Toevs says.
With her grounding in faith, Dr. Toevs continues to work in Indiana as trauma surgeon and ICU director. She is focused like a laser on making sure that patients at her facility are cared for and that the hospital can continue all of its operations.
Dr. Cervantes — Internal Medicine Hospitalist
Or how about Dr. Lilia Cervantes a specialist in Hospital Medicine practicing in Denver, Colorado?
Dr. Cervantes has two young daughters and a husband with asthma.
Naturally, she is worried about exposing them to Covid-19.
In preparation for an assignment working in the coronavirus ward, she isolated herself from her family in a designated bedroom. She was also careful to only touch the doorknobs in her house, and only when she was holding a disinfecting wipe.
She even went as far as to update her family’s will.
But — she didn’t stop caring for her patients.
"It’s just like I can’t even explain how hard this has been," she says.
"I went into medicine for a reason — I love taking care of patients."
Each of these doctors — while in different parts of our country — are on the front lines in America’s fight against Covid-19.
In America’s newest war, President Trump last week applauded many of the soldiers wearing white coats:
"I watched the doctors and nurses walking into the hospital this morning and it is like military people going into battle, going into war. The bravery is incredible," Trump explained. "If I were wearing a hat, I'd rip that hat off so fast and I would say, 'You people are just incredible.'"
They are incredible.
And that is also what makes it so infuriating that even while these doctors are on the front lines, some in Congress are considering taking away all of their power to negotiate fair payment for their services and handing it to the insurance companies over so-called "surprise medical billing."
Surprise billing isn’t some wonky health insurance matter.
As many know, surprise billing refers to the circumstances when a patient receives an unexpected bill after treatment that his or her insurance company won’t cover.
This could happen if you receive treatment at a facility on an emergency basis that is out of network or even if you receive a procedure at your in-network facility, but the physician or some other medical technician who assisted or performed the procedure is out of network.
These surprises can be quite pricey — sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars.
Policymakers in Washington, D.C. are determined to put an end to it.
And if you’ve experienced it, you’re probably ready for them to act yesterday.
But how they do it is just as important as doing it.
The way we resolve this issue will say a lot about who we are as a country and how much we appreciate the role that physicians and doctors played during the pandemic and also the role they play to protect us and our loved ones every day.
And while it seems that we’ve been waiting forever for the conflict to end, it will end —sooner than you may think.
Though that will be a great time of rejoicing and happiness, we’ll also begin our return to the mundane — including coming up with a resolution for the issue of surprise medical billing.
Hopefully — when we do, we won’t forget the men and women wearing white coats.
Horace Cooper is a writer and legal commentator. Previously a visiting assistant professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, his research focus was on U.S. intellectual property rights policy, the role of the United States Supreme Court in the American constitutional system, political forecasting, the legislative process, and federal labor law. Mr. Cooper has also served in senior capacities in the George W. Bush Administration including at the Voice of America and in the Department of Labor under then Secretary Elaine Chao, and on Capitol Hill as Counsel to former Majority Leader Richard K. Armey. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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