Doctors’ Lobbyists Are Still Lobbyists

Organized groups of physicians here in D.C. are often referred to as “association” or “academy,” such as the American Medical Association or the American Academy of Pediatrics.  But a rose by any other name is still a lobbying group.  And like most lobbying groups, they will often pressure the federal government for laws and regulations that impair the competition.

Speaking of the America Academy of Pediatrics, the AAP has fired a shot across the bow of retail health clinics:

Retail health clinics that are popping up in drugstores and other outlets shouldn’t be used for children’s primary-care needs, the American Academy of Pediatrics said, arguing that such facilities don’t provide the continuity of care that pediatricians do.

While retail clinics may be more convenient and less costly, the AAP said they are detrimental to the concept of a “medical home,” where patients have a personal physician who knows them well and coordinates all their care.

Thus far, AAP has only made arguments against using retail clinics as a substitute for a “medical home” for children.  And it is certainly free to do so.

There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that children are getting worse care at retail clinics, as the AAP helpfully notes: “Data on outcomes specifically looking at pediatric patients are limited, but minor illnesses, such as acute pharyngitis, demonstrate no significant issues with early return visits to pri- mary care physicians.”  In fact, the studies that AAP cites show retail clinics produce pretty good outcomes.

DocChildBut I doubt the AAP’s effort will end at persuasion or that it will let data deter it from using government to go after retail clinics. For example, the statement released by the AAP states that it has laid out principles that retail clinics “should be subject [to] because of concern regarding the medical care received by pediatric patients in these settings.”

Note the use of the passive voice, a common tactic lobbying groups use when they don’t want to say who will be responsible for doing the “subjecting.”  Will it be the retail clinics who subject themselves, or will it be the government?

Ultimately, it should be parents who make the decision as to where their children get treated, since no one else—not pediatricians, not “academies,” and certainly not politicians—has a greater interest than parents in seeing that their children receive proper medical care.

But don’t expect the AAP to respect the wishes of parents.  After all, more children treated at retail clinics means fewer treated by pediatricians.  That could also mean fewer dues paying members of the AAP.  It is probably only a matter of time before the AAP calls for stricter government regulations on retail clinics.

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