Article Date: 4/1/2010

Getting a Piece of the Pie
Street Smarts

Getting a Piece of the Pie

The Supreme Court lifted restrictions on corporate political contributions. So why do politicians block doctors' corporate support?

By Dan Beck, OD, Leland, N.C.

In January, the United States Supreme Court ruled that companies and organizations have the same First Amendment rights as individuals. The ruling, for all practical purposes, will allow unlimited financial contributions to the campaign war chests of any and every politician who is willing to accept the money. The ruling does have some limitations, but I know insiders will find ways around them. Call me a pessimist, but virtually no one running for elected office will refuse additional money.

As a result, our country's politicians, by definition, will obtain and maintain their jobs through “legal bribery.” Although many would argue that this is already the case, the new perks and privileges will be almost limitless.

What About Us?

No other profession, including health care, allows for such a sense of entitlement. Indeed, it's illegal for any of us to receive anything of any real value from companies or organizations we support through written prescriptions or instrument purchases. The very people that made the laws forbidding the rest of us from receiving anything for our loyalty are the same hypocrites who wallow in the freebies.

I think it's high time these rules were changed. The playing field needs to be leveled for optometrists and other healthcare professionals. After all, with the cost of professional schools continuing to skyrocket, there's an opportunity here to make the financial burden more manageable.

In the interest of fairness, I propose the following:

In the same manner that corporations contribute to help certain politicians get elected to office, corporations should be allowed to contribute to the educational expenses of optometry students. By doing so, these companies would, in essence, help students get “elected” to graduation and licensure. In turn, these new doctors could, at their own discretion, return the favor in the form of using and prescribing the companies' products.

Could It Work?

Some readers will be outraged at this idea, perhaps because they believe we should occupy higher ethical ground. Some will say lobbying and “buying” doctors will negatively impact health care. But I disagree.

Unlike politicians, who are bought for their votes on matters of which they may have little or no real knowledge, doctors generally know and understand the drugs and products that are pushed on them. We don't make blind decisions. In addition, any drug we could prescribe already has undergone vigorous testing to meet FDA guidelines for safety and effectiveness.

Furthermore, many of the votes cast by politicians end up harming large groups of people, while rewarding others. Choosing one brand of medication over another for a particular patient wouldn't have such wide-reaching efffects.

Like it or not, bribes and kickbacks have always run politics, business and life in general. Why not accept this fact and use it to help future optometrists and other healthcare providers? It may allow new doctors to concentrate more on their patients instead of constantly worrying about how they're going to pay off their student loans. nOD

Seeking corporate support, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. E-mail him at dbeck4@ec.rr.com.


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010