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Obama's longtime doctor says his healthcare plan falls short

Dr. David Scheiner of Chicago advocates a single-payer government system. He calls Obama's plan too timid, saying it reflects politics, not the president's ideals.

July 29, 2009|Mike Dorning

WASHINGTON — The Chicago doctor who treated President Obama for more than two decades has a prescription for healthcare reform: a British- or Canadian-style single-payer system.

Dr. David Scheiner, 70, will advocate such a plan at a rally Thursday on the National Mall.

In an interview, he described the president as a "beloved" patient in "superb" health.

"He was always on time," Scheiner said. "He just sat in the waiting room with everyone else, even when he was a senator. He never went up to the desk and pulled rank."

But he criticized Obama's healthcare plan as too timid, arguing that the White House plan reflected politics more than the president's ideals.

"It's a bad program. I don't think it's what he feels in his heart is necessary. I think it's what he feels politically is the best way," said Scheiner, who acknowledged that he had not discussed the subject with Obama directly.

Scheiner argued that the "public option" Obama favors, in which a government-run insurance program would compete with private insurers, does not go far enough. The public option has been one of the most controversial parts of Obama's plan, with insurers and conservatives vigorously opposing it.

Scheiner said a single-payer government-run system would cut costs by reducing the administrative overhead that doctors and other health providers must maintain to meet complex reimbursement rules from different insurance companies. A government program also would have greater leverage in negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, he said.

He argued that such a system would lead to better care for lower-income people and end what he said was a pernicious insurance-industry practice: discouraging patients from getting necessary treatment by setting up obstacles, and boosting profits in the process.

"They make it frustrating so he doesn't get it easily and maybe he'll go away," Scheiner said.

Critics' contention that a single-payer system would constrain patient choices is misplaced, he said.

"The government never gets in my way," he said. "Forty years I've been working [with] Medicare, never. Who gets in my way all the time? Private insurance companies. Somehow that message is not getting across."


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