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...would have been pleased with his adopted country today.

He was basically thrown out of the Bronx County Medical Association in the early 1960s for speaking to senior groups in favor of the controversial new proposal for something called Medicare.

He died in 1972, but I know he would have been frustrated and pissed all these years that we hadn't taken the next step.

He would also have been disappointed that in 2009-2010 we're still unable to go for it all the way. But he was a pragmatist. He became a doctor because of his ideals and his belief in building a better world. I know he would have said "pass the bill!"

He studied medicine because he was a socialist, and because he truly believed that a shenere besere velt (Yiddish for "a more beautiful and better world")was ultimately possible.

In Poland, he worked in an institution that rescued homeless children from the streets. In his practice in the Bronx, he was a multi-generational general practitioner, a country doctor in the city. He made house calls until his own doctor told him to stop because of his own health issues.

Before Medicare and before Medicaid, many of his patients did not have insurance and paid cash for office visits. He had a sign behind his desk up on the wall: "Office visit: $5" (which was a lot of money in the 1950s and early 1960s. One year, his accountant told him he was losing money and needed to raise his rate. We had a family conference (I think I was 11 or 12) because he was upset and knew that this would be a hardship for some of his patients. The family decision was to take the sign off the wall. Some patients were told of the new rate; others were not. This was his seat-of-the pants income based sliding fee scale!

I have been thinking of my father a lot these past few months. He was a realist and and an idealist (as opposed to an ideologue). He would have preferred a single-payer system, no question. Would he have advised that we kill the bill and wait for it to happen? Absolutely not. The fact that insurance companies will be paid to provide insurance would have been somewhere down the list of concerns, outweighed by the fact that so many more people would have access to services, and that significant new requirements and expectations are being placed on those insurance companies.

It's always a bit of an assumption to state what a person who's been long gone would have said or done in today's situation. But in this case, I know, for sure, what my father's advice to us and to his elected representatives would have been. I can see his face and almost hear his voice saying "pass the bill."

Then he would have made sure everyone knew what the next steps needed to be.

(I called him "Pa," by the way....)

Originally posted to itzik shpitzik on Thu Dec 24, 2009 at 08:08 AM PST.

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