New leader outlines medical society issues

by Gary Gosselin

As new president of the Michigan State Medical Society, Dr. Michael A. Sandler has become chief advocate for the 15,000-member organization and by extension an advocate for the businesses and residents of the state as well, he says.

Sandler, a West Bloomfield diagnostic radiologist and senior staff member in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Henry Ford Hospital, says there are plenty of pressing issues for MSMS and the state.
Business Review: What is the most urgent issue today?

Sandler: Passing legislation for smoke-free workplaces. I’m asking our members to encourage their representatives in Lansing to bring this to closure. It’s estimated that 3,000 Michigan inhabitants die from the effects of second-hand smoke.

Medicaid payment reductions are being discussed at state and federal levels. What can be done?

In terms of the state, we think cutting the Medicaid budget is not a good idea. If they reduce eligibility, these people will just go to the emergency room – the most expensive place to take care of people. Physicians are making 61 cents on the dollar now; doctors carry the Medicare program in this state on their back, and hospitals have also taken this hit and they shouldn’t be cut either.

The MSMS changed its stance on embryonic stem cell research from favorable to neutral?

This is reflective of the diversified opinion of our members. In studying it for a year we can shed some light for our members. We can come back (after a year) and will help them be informed to make a knowledgeable judgment.

Adoption of electronic medical records across the industry is hit or miss. How do you facilitate that?

First of all, the large institutions like Henry Ford, they already have them and it’s a tremendous help in taking care of patients. The concern would be small (hospitals and groups) and solo physicians because of the capital outlay. There’s a statewide health and technology committee, but we would like to see the government and insurance companies perhaps helping with the costs of this. The government could use tax credits. The big winners would be the public; records would be available and mistakes would be lessened.

How do we deal with the fact that many people are uninsured?

We recently had “Cover the Uninsured Week” and provided information about resources business owners have available to them about low-cost health coverage. We believe that the federal government needs to address the issue. The MSMS has endorsed the AARP coalition “Divided we Fail,” initiative. Now we have to reach across the aisle to reach a resolution.
MSMS has been talking about a physician shortage; how are you dealing with that?

We should look to the federal government, and some kind of debt reduction for those who choose primary care. When they are $150,000 to $200,000 in debt when they get out of school, if they go into primary care as opposed to higher-paying specialties, there should be some sort of debt forgiveness.

Also, we cannot have any weakening of the hard fought medical liability (tort) reforms that would drive physicians out of the state. The trial lawyers have tried to chip away at that.  

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