Today’s health care reform vote on Capitol Hill, while high drama, really only signals the beginning of the work that needs to be done by emergency physicians to improve access to emergency care for our patients and future patients. As I write this, I am watching the floor deliberations via the miracle of technology, and I know that the outcome will disappoint 48% of ACEP members, 48% of all physicians, and 48% of the American public, if polls are to be believed......and that will occur regardless of the outcome.
The greatness of our democracy lies in the ability of our people to freely elect their government representatives and to express themselves fully in the debate over crucial issues. Never in my lifetime has this been more apparent than during the health care reform debate. I believe that almost everyone has an opinion on health care, including many non-Americans, and almost everyone has expressed that opinion at some point.
The real challenge to our democracy, to our specialty, and to our organization is to move forward once today’s vote has been taken. We must have great care not to fall victim to Jefferson’s “tyranny of the minority.” We must move forward to create the greatest health care system in the world, befitting the greatest nation in the world, no matter the outcome of today’s vote.
There is no “win” today for emergency medicine. There is only new illumination on the path to achieving better emergency care. The real work comes as we identify areas that need our skills in innovation and problem-solving and get to work shoring up the nation’s emergency care system. My fervent wish is that emergency physicians will find a common bond in the needs of our patients, and put the rancor and division of the path to health care reform behind us in the interest of better emergency care for everyone.