Don’t call me a provider

“Pregnancy termination” and “infanticide” are two different words, used by two very different kinds of people, to describe the one exact same thing: abortion. The source of an argument is found by looking at the words used to frame it; the rest is filler.

I am a medical school student. Like many of you reading this, my life is spent between the walls of the library and the walls of the clinic. I was told at the beginning of this journey that it was fair; that it was an “equivalent exchange.” You want to relieve suffering — great — you’re going to suffer. You want to extend lives — fantastic — you’ll trade years of your own. You want to lead your patients to healthier relationships — beautiful — I promise you’ll be distanced from your family, friends, and other loved ones.

We accepted this trade because we are driven to be physicians.

Ultimately, it’s a small price to pay to join that sacred society of men and women who devote their lives to healing. However, none of us made these sacrifices to be a “provider,” and this is the culture we must fight.

Recently, the director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation spoke at my medical school. His lecture addressed a currently optional program that physicians may enroll in that will give them enhanced reimbursement for reducing costs to Medicaid. Not once during his entire lecture did he use the word “doctor,” when referring to physicians, or advanced practice nurses; he only referred to them as “health care providers”

Stop.

Have you ever considered what a “provider” is or does?

Well, that’s obvious: A provider provides! A provider is the source of a good or service. They disseminate it freely and happily, expecting nothing in return. That is how government, insurance companies, and hospitals look at physicians. We are obliging tools, conduits along the path of the flow of money from patient to insurance company, and insurance company to hospital. Our feelings, and our goal of providing top-level care, are fundamentally irrelevant. Why else would prior-authorizations exist? Or electronic health records whose only real function is to facilitate billing? Or the fact that it is illegal to provide pro-bono care to Medicaid or Medicare patients? These and other “innovations” burden physicians and patients, slowing or even completely halting the delivery of care.

I do not know when physicians allowed themselves to be called “providers,” but I do know that no positive change will happen to our toxic and unsustainable health care system until we stop accepting it.

I am not a “provider school” student. When I graduate, my diploma will not say “provider” on it. It will say “doctor,” and we should accept nothing less.

Jacob Chevlen is a medical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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