culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Health care rationing via a medical draft. Bush voters who have health insurance are perhaps too smug too soon. What good will health insurance be if the Bush administration
drafts healthcare workers (NYT)?
The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps.

In a confidential report this summer, a contractor hired by the agency described how such a draft might work, how to secure compliance and how to mold public opinion and communicate with health care professionals, whose lives could be disrupted.

On the one hand, the report said, the Selective Service System should establish contacts in advance with medical societies, hospitals, schools of medicine and nursing, managed care organizations, rural health care providers and the editors of medical journals and trade publications.

On the other hand, it said, such contacts must be limited, low key and discreet because "overtures from Selective Service to the medical community will be seen as precursors to a draft," and that could alarm the public.


Under the plan, [Richard S. Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System] said, about 3.4 million male and female health care workers ages 18 to 44 would be expected to register with the Selective Service. From this pool, he said, the agency could select tens of thousands of health care professionals practicing in 62 health care specialties.

"The Selective Service System plans on delivering about 36,000 health care specialists to the Defense Department if and when a special skills draft were activated," Mr. Flahavan said.

The contractor hired by Selective Service, Widmeyer Communications, said that local government operations would be affected by a call-up of emergency medical technicians, so it advised the Selective Service to contact groups like the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties.

Doctors and nurses would be eligible for deferments if they could show that they were providing essential health care services to civilians in their communities.

But the contractor said: "There is no getting around the fact that a medical draft would disrupt lives. Many familial, business and community responsibilities will be impacted."

Moreover, Widmeyer said, "if medical professionals are singled out and other professionals are not called, many will find the process unfair," and health care workers will ask, "Why us?"
The contractor Widmeyer Communications is, you guessed it, a public relations firm.

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