NANCY DICKEY: Vows to Continue Fight for Uninsured
American Medical Association Immediate Past President Dr. Nancy Dickey has visited 20 free clinics in the past year in order to call attention to the plight of the nation's uninsured, American Medical News reports. Even as lawmakers work to shore up the nation's health care system, she said, "We will probably always need an additional layer of safety net for people who fall between the cracks. ... The problem is that today we don't have cracks, we have chasms and canyons." Dickey visited clinics that ranged from those offering only the most basic primary care to those with extensive on-site services and a network of outreach mechanisms. "When you had to start referring out, whether it was for prescriptions or tests or hospitalization, or even referring out for a subspecialist evaluation, the best of the clinics had worked out relationships to take care of that," she said, underscoring the important role of the medical community. "If you don't have a mechanism to tap into subspecialists, to access sophisticated tests, to fill the prescriptions when the sample cabinets are bare, then the frustrations of taking care of patients would make it impossible," she added.
Dickey also pointed to medical liability as an issue for some physician volunteers, particularly those who are retired. Some states provide a "magic umbrella" through the state attorney general's office, thereby protecting physicians under Good Samaritan laws. But in other states, she said, "it's a serious problem. In some places the physician community is advocating for a fix." Dickey said she envisions the AMA stepping forward and perhaps creating a link on its Web site to provide a forum for such providers to discuss medical liability. "It would also be a place for some dialogue -- a place for physicians to say, 'Here are some concerns we have before we go down that pathway.'" Dickey said that, determined to "hammer away" at the health insurance issue, she spoke to county and state medical groups, businesses, newspapers and politicians this past year. She said that part of her goal for the year "was to simply wake up America and say, 'Hey, this is a growing problem.' One of my frustrations is I feel like they keep hitting the snooze button" (Booth, 7/5 issue).