Irate doctors complain US reforms illegal

AMERICAN doctors are waving their scalpels against Hillary Clinton, head of the presidential task force on health. The American Medical Association, which fears that investments made in specialised training and equipment by physicians would be devalued if Hillary's proposed health care reforms come into force, has contended that the practice of medicine is a property right protected by the US Constitution. Under the proposed reforms, the US government may impose price controls or an overall limit on health spending (Down To Earth, May 31, 1993).

Doctors, warning the government against such a move, quoted the Fifth Amendment, which states that no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. AMA's lawyers say, "When price controls are imposed on all physicians, there can be no claim that they have been incurred voluntarily. The only way to avoid the controls would be to abandon the practice of medicine entirely."
Individual's prerogative The association also said that though the government could limit public spending on health care, it could not prohibit individuals from using their own funds or their own insurance coverage to obtain appropriate medical care.

Meanwhile, in a bid to woo the doctors, Hillary Clinton came down heavily on the requirement by insurance companies that doctors seek approval for costly treatments ahead of time, though she has glossed over several equally pressing issues. "Instead of being trusted for your expertise," she said at AMA's annual meet in Chicago, "you are expected to get approval for medical procedures from a total stranger."

Hillary also sided with doctors about their frustrations with bureaucracy. "There is no master checklist that could be administered by some faceless bureaucrat telling you what you need to do on an hourly basis for your patients. And frankly, I wouldn't want to be one of your patients if there were," she said.