Since joining my current practice two years ago, I've noticed that I care for a disproportionate number of immigrants of Chinese and other Asian descent compared to my colleagues. Although both of my parents were born in Taiwan, I don't speak Mandarin or have special expertise on medical conditions common in Asian Americans. Nonetheless, Asian patients seem more comfortable with me anyway. Similarly, U.S. health workforce analyses show that underrepresented ...

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Recently, a family physician colleague asked me to explain why the Affordable Care Act requires private health insurers to provide first-dollar coverage for preventive services that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force assigns an "A" or "B" (recommended) rating, but allows public insurers (Medicare and Medicaid) to determine if and how they will cover these services. Until recently, the question hadn't come up, since Medicare has agreed to cover pretty ...

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In my line of work, it's not uncommon for a civil debate about the evidence for a cancer screening test (such as the PSA test for prostate cancer) to rapidly degenerate into the other person questioning my motives or suggesting that the real reason I oppose disseminating or requiring insurers to pay for a test is because I secretly want patients to suffer lingering and painful deaths. ("He obviously doesn't care about ...

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After I left my position as a staffer for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in November 2010, it was three years before I was tapped for another guideline post, this time at the American Academy of Family Physicians. Recently I joined the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science, which formulates guidance for family physicians on a variety of topics, including clinical preventive services. My appointment coincided ...

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I've had many Twitter conversations with cancer screening advocates who fear that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's "D" (don't do it) recommendation against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer will lead to a dramatic spike in prostate cancer deaths as primary care physicians screen more selectively, or perhaps stop screening at all. I seriously doubt these apocalyptic forecasts (for one thing, prostate cancer causes only 3% of deaths in men, and ...

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As a long distance runner on my high school track team, I won few accolades in individual events, but shone in relays. My teammates and I spent hours perfecting our baton exchanges, which must occur within a limited area of the track, until these handoffs felt smooth and effortless. In contrast, world class athletes focused on individual performances are often assigned to relay teams at the last minute, a practice ...

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"Health insurance is not health care." That is not original. I borrowed it from Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Director Mitchell Katz's JAMA Internal Medicine editorial about problems with ensuring access to health care for Medicaid recipients whose cheap public insurance usually doesn't even pay doctors enough to recoup costs of care, let alone earn a living. But somehow, during the impassioned political debates that preceded Obamacare, the botched rollout of ...

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I recently spoke to a class of undergraduates about the benefits, harms and politics of screening smokers for lung cancer using low-dose CT scans. Afterwards, a student asked how I felt about the Affordable Care Act's requirement that Medicare and private insurers cover U.S. Preventive Services Task Force "A" and "B" recommended screening tests and other preventive services without co-payments or deductibles, making them free at the point of care. I ...

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Projecting future physician workforce needs is a challenging calculation that must take multiple variables into account to avoid missing its mark. In the mid-1990s, the American Medical Association confidently predicted that the penetration of managed care would lead to a large "physician surplus" and convinced Congress to cap the number of graduate medical education (GME) positions subsidized by the Medicare program. Two decades later, there is a widespread consensus that the U.S. is ...

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Since becoming a full-time medical school faculty member again, I've volunteered to interview about two applicants each month from September through March. When I first started doing this, I was surprised that the admissions office did not provide me with a copy of the applicant's resume and essay until the time of the interview, carried in a manila folder by the applicant. But I quickly realized that it wasn't necessary to ...

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