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In Praise of Town Meetings, by Ralph Kristeller, MD

For the record I have been a member of AAPS for a number of years.  I have high regard for its members especially Executive Director Jane Orient, MD.  Alieta Eck and I also have a special relationship.

It comes from growing up in the same neighborhood and sharing relationships with some of the same terrific physicians.

I am bonded to our NJ AMA Delegation for which I also have very high regard - and the bond goes back to my first association with them.

As I have written previously, in NJ in the late 1980’s we held successful Town Meetings at the County level moderated by local physicians.  It was done under the auspices and with the assistance of the State Medical Society.  What we learned from the experience is that the meetings became more and more successful as the physicians gained expertise.

They gained that expertise through trial and error.  It was time consuming and occasionally a significant opportunity was missed.  Today we don’t have the luxury of time.

As you will recall, in the recent past the President of the United States made a statement to the effect that physicians were performing tonsillectomies and amputations in order to increase their incomes. He produced no credible data to support his statement that was so demeaning to the large majority of ethical, dedicated physicians. AMA Leaders never challenged the President’s statement and, very importantly, the President never retracted or apologized for his very harmful unsupported misstatement.

Town Meetings, focusing on Health System Reform, if properly conducted, are a direct, cost effective, vital communication between patients (public) and physicians.   It is the same as that which occurs in physician’s examining rooms – except that in Town Meetings other interested parties benefit greatly from the discussion.

Our message needs to be:


A clear example of the use of language to poison minds – “consumers” and “providers” The antidote is to speak out loud, clear and often against the manipulation and misuse of language as wells as to spot light those who use this tactic to foster their self interest agenda. 

With regard to Health System Reform it is imperative for the public to know clearly who is working in their best interest and who is deceiving them. Example: Physicians are not “reimbursed” (given a refund) they are paid. Example: Government and Companies do not have a “fee schedule.”  Fee schedules are the prerogative of Professionals.

The common sense slogan to reform the payment system for the benefit of the country should be: “You can tell us what you will pay, don’t tell us what to charge.” (Jim Todd) By implementing that slogan, the patient manages the use of assets. It puts the patient in the driver’s seat.  Who better?  It is the patient’s life and health.

It restores the time honored patient physician relationship WITHOUT INTERFERENCE. It provides a mechanism for the government to plan a “budget certain” without the use of gimmicks or trickery. None of this is Rocket Science. Most importantly, it is also not politics as usual. It is common sense.

Town meetings are a great way to provide important information to a public who is very, very concerned that our country is heading in the wrong direction.

 Dr. Kristeller is a retired Internist who resides in East Hanover, New Jersey. He served for 8 years as a physician in military service, 27 years in solo private practice, 9 years as Chief Medical Officer in two large Community Hospitals and 7 years as a Physician Surveyor for the Joint Commission. He has participated in the proceedings of the AMA House of Delegates since 1983 and continues to serve at the National, State and County levels. 

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