Serial health care reform misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that, under the Senate health care reform bill, "for the first time in history, government officials are given power over how doctors treat privately insured patients." In fact, through criminal law -- including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act -- federal drug laws, and other methods, states and the federal government currently regulate the relationship between doctors and patients, privately insured or not.
McCaughey's claim: Regulation of privately insured patients' relationship with doctors is unprecedented
From McCaughey's February 16 Wall Street Journal op-ed:
Republicans are dithering over whether to accept President Obama's invitation to a Feb. 25 health-care summit. The White House says the health bills passed with Democratic support -- the Pelosi and Reid bills -- will be the basis for talks. Republicans should just say no to a summit based on these bills.
These bills reduce American freedom. Forcing people to buy insurance and empowering government to dictate what your doctor does -- key elements of these bills -- need to be off the table. There can be no negotiation between coercion and freedom.
Also, for the first time in history, government officials are given power over how doctors treat privately insured patients. Doctors who don't adhere to whatever regulations the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposes to improve health-care "quality" cannot contract with your insurer (Senate bill, pp. 148-149).
Federal law currently regulates doctor-patient relationship
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act makes it a crime for doctors to perform certain medical procedures. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 states: "Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both." The statute makes it a crime for a doctor to perform so-called "partial-birth abortions" regardless of whether the woman consented to such a procedure -- and indeed regardless of whether such a procedure was necessary to preserve the woman's health. In addition, the statute allows "the father, if married to the mother at the time she receives a partial-birth abortion procedure," to sue the doctor who performed the procedure for "money damages for all injuries, psychological and physical, occasioned by the violation of this section" regardless of whether the woman consented to the procedure.
Federal drug laws regulate doctors' ability to prescribe drugs. The federal government regulates the doctor-patient relationship through the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act by limiting doctors' ability to prescribe drugs until they have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, pursuant to federal drug laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal for persons to possess drugs, such as marijuana, that the Drug Enforcement Agency has placed on Schedule I, even if those drugs have been prescribed by a doctor.
State laws also regulate doctor-patient relationship
States' criminal statutes, tort law regulate doctor-patient relationship. State wrongful death statutes also regulate the doctor-patient relationship. A recent example is the charges filed against Dr. Conrad Murray relating to the death of Michael Jackson. According to the Los Angeles Times, the charges stem from Murray's administration of the sedative propofol, which Jackson reportedly "demand[ed]" after two other sedatives failed to work. State governments also regulate the doctor-patient relationship through medical malpractice tort law. For instance, the Supreme Court of Illinois recently dealt with a case in which a mother sued her doctor and other health care providers for injuries to her daughter allegedly caused by medical malpractice arising from her birth by Caesarean section. In the case, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that limits on damages enacted by the Illinois legislature violated the Illinois constitution.
State licensing and disciplinary regimes regulate doctor-patient relationship. States also regulate the doctor-patient relationship through licensing and disciplinary regimes, limiting who can provide medical care to patients and allowing patients to request that states discipline their doctors for poor performance. For instance, the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline states that a "license to practice medicine in the State of Rhode Island is considered a privilege, not a right, granted to qualified physicians." The board also states of its doctor disciplinary procedures: "Complaints may come from individuals, institutions, public officers, other physicians, healthcare professionals or anyone else who has contact with medical professionals" and following investigation, may result in the loss of the doctor's license.
McCaughey joins conservatives in urging GOP not participate in health care summit
Numerous media conservatives have cautioned Republicans about participating in health care summit. In her op-ed, McCaughey advised Republicans to "just say no to a summit based on" the health care reform bills that passed the House and Senate. Other media conservatives who have advised Republicans against participating in the summit include Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr. and Andrew Napolitano. Other media conservatives have also attacked President Obama over the health care summit.
McCaughey's relentless stream of health care falsehoods
McCaughey has engaged in a relentless, falsehood-laden attack on health care reform proposals. In naming McCaughey Health Care Misinformer of the Year for 2009, Media Matters for America documented her relentless attack on health care reform by spreading falsehoods and distortions through opinion pieces and television appearances at nearly every stage of the debate. Rupert Murdoch-owned papers The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post have repeatedly provided her space in their op-ed pages, and Murdoch's Fox News Channel has repeatedly hosted her and advanced her claims.