Memo from the Editor : Who's on Frist?

February 7, 2003

No. It's not a typo. I meant Frist. Bill Frist.

 

Memo From The Editor

Who's on Frist?

Marianne Dekker Mattera

No, it's not a typo. I meant Frist. Bill Frist. Now, the most powerful man in the US Senate is a physician and doctors have an opportunity they've never had before to plead the case of medicine.

Certainly, as Majority Leader of the Senate, Dr. Frist has a lot on his plate. Iraq, Korea, terrorism, and the economy are all pressing issues that demand immediate attention and significant time. But so are health care and the plight of those who deliver it.

And no one is in a better position than Bill Frist to understand the ramifications of managed care, Medicare cutbacks, and the malpractice crisis on the health care delivery system and, ultimately, on the American people. He did his undergraduate work in health policy at Princeton, so he's grounded in the theory. He's also grounded in the practice—maybe "steeped" is a better word. Medicine has shaped his life from earliest childhood. His father is a doctor, his brothers are doctors, and he spent 16 years seeing patients every day. He knows what it means to be a doctor, and he knows what impact doctors have on people's lives.

Frist has been in the Senate since 1995. As one of 100, his voice as an advocate for physicians and patients could be easily drowned out. As Majority Leader, he can pretty well dictate what gets action and what doesn't. As a senator from Tennessee, he had a right to expect every doctor in Tennessee to be on his case. As Majority Leader of the Senate, he should not be surprised if every doctor in the country floods his mailbox urging action on the deepest problems of medicine.

And that's just what you should be doing. You needn't wait for a specific piece of legislation to voice your concerns. But, as it happens, you'll soon get the chance to urge quick movement of a malpractice reform bill that Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pledged last month to introduce "after the Martin Luther King Jr. recess."

Feinstein's proposed legislation is modeled after California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which is largely credited for making that state one of the nation's few relative safe havens from the malpractice storms. The bill will include provisions for caps on noneconomic damages, limits on attorney's fees, and a "fair" statute of limitations.

Frist won't have an easy time convincing fellow Republicans that a Democrat's bill deserves attention, but if any Majority Leader should be expected to, it's he. He needs to be told that, too. He needs to be told that you understand his predicaments, but that you expect he will work to correct the predicaments facing doctors and patients, too.

So when you're writing to your own representatives in Washington, contact Bill Frist, too. Don't leave the lobbying up to organized medicine. Spell out your concerns. Spell out the impact your plight has on health care in your part of the country. Use this unique opportunity. Stay on Frist.

 

 

Marianne Mattera. Memo from the Editor : Who's on Frist?. Medical Economics Feb. 7, 2003;80:8.