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Obama's doctor skeptical of cure

June 21, 2009 - Jim Anderson
“Obama’s doctor knocks ObamaCare,” is the headline of a recent story at, written by David Whelan.

David Scheiner, 71, who was Obama’s doctor from 1987 until he entered the White House, favors “Medicare for all,” or a single-payer system similar to Canada’s. In that system, health care delivery remains largely private, but is paid by a single federal health insurance fund.

(The U.S. spends 83 percent more per person on health care than Canada. Everyone in Canada is covered, but nearly every sixth person in the U.S. is without coverage.)

Scheiner fears that the reforms being discussed in Washington are too watered down when it comes to offering a public insurance alternative.

“It’s nonsense that the private insurance companies need to be protected,” he says. “Why? Because they’ve done such a good job?”

An internist in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, Scheiner told Forbes his income was going down before he sold his practice. After paying for taxes, health insurance and malpractice insurance, he estimated he was taking home about $1,050 a week, providing primary care to lower-income adults from nearby housing projects as well as famous patients such as Obama.

That doesn’t mean he thinks all doctors are underpaid. “A neurosurgeon gets paid $20,000 for cutting into the neck of my patient,” he said. “Have him get paid $1 million a year instead of $2 million or $3 million. He won’t starve.”

Scheiner also differs with Obama on malpractice reform. He told Forbes it should be harder to sue doctors and that awards should be capped.

In the end, he’s an Obama supporter. “Obama’s wonderful, but on this one I’m not sure if he’s getting the right input,” he said of health care reform.

Scheiner told Forbes he thinks Obama likely sees the virtues of a single-payer system, but has judged it politically impossible to achieve.


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