Pro Bono Publico

Pro Bono Publico 

“Who is your hero or heroine?” I ask that question on my clinical intake form. One of mine is Jay Heimlich, M.D. Dr. Jay Heimlich, inventor of the famous “Heimlich maneuver” has saved more people than any other living person. He is responsible for lives being saved worldwide while he sleeps and while he showers. How has he done that? He innovated! He solved a problem. No committees. He observed a problem (choking to death) and acting on his own, solved the problem. Specifically, he figured out a way to jump behind some poor bloke choking on his filet minion (revenge of the herbivores!) and by pulling one’s fists up and into the stomach hard, dislodging the unchewed (See? I told you to chew!) meat in a way that frequently described an elegant arc onto the plate of the dinner guest across the table. Dr. Heimlich probably sleeps well at night. Job well done, Jay! Now while you may never mount a serious challenge that lifesaving record, you can do your part. By that, I mean you can sign my petition.

Aside from “the check is in the mail” (ahem… you know who you are…), I submit to you that the following is one of the big three lies: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Who ever propagated that lie did not understand the responsibility of an electorate being informed on legislative issues. Case in point is the 1993 Health Care Reform Act.

How would you feel if I told you that there is a law on the books that comes into effect on July 1st, 1995 that will severely restrict your freedom in all matters related to health care? What if I explained that this law is going to cost you more, provide less health care options and remove your freedom to choose which health care provider you “hire” to care for yourself and your loved ones? What if I told you that your health insurance premiums may increase solely in order to replenish state coffers or that this law mandates that you subsidize self-destructive health habits such as drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse as well as poor exercise and dietary habits? Am I loosing you? How does $5000./year health insurance premiums for a family of four sound?

Well, I am disappointed to say that such a law exists. NOTE: I am not talking about a proposition or a theoretical idea. It is fact. It is. There in Olympia it sits like a time bomb waiting for July 1995 to terminate health care freedom. Call your state representative for an explanation and the capitol for a copy of the bill. Ask about the 1993 Health Care Reform Act.

Why do I despise the law? Because I have spent years studying how to deliver the best health care I can to people who suffer and have been told “live with it”, “there is no hope” and “    ” I feel strongly that in America, people ought to be free to bring their product to market (in my case, safe and innovative medical care) and let the customers chose. If I, as a medical doctor, help people attain health after they have given up all hope, I ought to be free to peddle my wares. You ought to be free to come and see me. This law will eliminate my freedom to serve you to the best of OUR cooperative abilities. You and I should decide about your health. That is not the business of our government. Seven month left…

The petition I am encouraging you to sign is Initiative 165 (I-165) also called The Freedom of Choice in Health Care initiative. If this petition passes, then the 1993 Health Care Reform Act will be modified in the slight but significant manner that people can decide whether or not they want to participate. It eliminates coercion. The analogy I use is public schools and private schools. Public schools are available but if for religious or other reasons, some educators and some parents decide to create a private school, I think all American citizens agree that such is their right. This is especially so if these private school people still pay taxes to support the public school system. People should (we believe in this free country) be allowed to spend their money on what they value so long as the purchase is not illegal.

However, your days of spending money on the doctor of your choice or the form of medicine of your choice has only seven months left. In July 1995, if initiative 165 does not pass, Big Brother will be your doctor. Big Brother, in the form of the Washington State Health Commission, will decide which illnesses exist and which drugs are legal to treat those illnesses. Let me repeat that. (Actually, just re-read it a few times and let it sink in…) Yes. A bureaucratic body of non-elected people will call ALL the shots on ALL aspects of health care. they will decide who gets what treatment and who does not. Rationing of health care will follow swiftly and innovation, historically the product of private initiative not bureaucratic think tanks, will be outlawed. No longer will a doctor be free to discuss options with an informed competent patient and decide to try an innovative approach. (Read that sentence again too.)

Now, now. Control yourself. I know you are feeling angry that this 1993 Health Care Reform Act was slipped though with minimal public debate. I know you are pissed that your representatives were asleep at the wheel and let this slip past. I know you are indignant that no one told you about this until the 11th hour. But don’t despair. There is still time to act “pro Bono Publico” in the public good. You can start by informing yourselves about the terrible 1993 Health Care Reform Act. When you get the facts, please get a grip of your temper and channel that anger into constructive activity: consider signing and encouraging others to sign the Freedom of Choice in Health Care initiative (I-165). If you do that, you will be playing a small (but significant) part at maintaining public health in Washington. Your kids will thank you.

More importantly, if you think you have a equally potent life-saving maneuver with which to take a run at Jay Heimlich’s record, please for everyone’s sake, get it known before July 1995. Tomorrow’s Jay Heimlich would never be able to get his innovative Heimlich maneuver approved by a governmental committee. So, let’s hear what good ideas you have before July, 1995.  That will be your last chance. (Unless you know how to convince bureaucracies to do productive and innovative work…)

So, my message to you is not particularly humorous or entertaining. I’ll make it up to you in the next issue. My message today is that signing the I-165 is a vote for 1) the right to freely chose your health care; 2) protection of personal privacy; 3) right to purchase appropriate health insurance options.

To Your Health!


Bradford S. Weeks, M.D. (C) 1996



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