By Patty Fahy, M.D.
Licensed to Lead Podcast, June 6, 2022
Listen to “042 – Dr. Susan Rogers Tells Senate: Don’t Hand Medicare to the Profiteers” on Spreaker.
Community, connection, purpose: these values are almost palpable even in a virtual conversation with Dr. Susan Rogers. Dr. Rogers is an internist, educator, and activist on behalf of those who suffer when profit motives bulldoze the institutions that are meant to serve the public. A neon example of a public good which has been targeted by profiteers is traditional Medicare. As president of Physicians for a National Health Program, Dr. Rogers is fighting back against the shape-shifting strategies launched by insurance companies and private equity firms to cash in on Medicare. She fills us in on the importance of preserving the choice of traditional Medicare, and talks about her work to inform the public and Congress about the “predatory DCEs” or Direct Contracting Entities.
She was shaped by growing up in a uniquely integrated community in Chicago as well as by the activism of the 1960s. When she was in middle school, her mom took her to a march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. protesting the state of the public schools in Chicago. She trained at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and then went on to hold leadership and teaching positions there as an attending. While she did defect temporarily to work in other settings in Chicago, she missed the camaraderie and like-minded passion of her Cook County colleagues. She emphasizes the importance of community with colleagues and the significance of a physician’s long-term relationships with patients.
Dr. Rogers is exasperated at the privatization of healthcare by people who know nothing about the practice and profession of medicine. She describes the total disconnect when decisions are made by financially-driven business people: “There should be no role for them.”
“Resources aren’t placed where they’re needed—they’re placed where they can generate more money.”
She compares the inroads of private equity firms in healthcare to the debacle of private equity firms and charter schools siphoning funds away from public schools in poor communities. As in healthcare, the motives are not to provide the needed services to the public—but to amass profits for investors. Rural hospitals that are acquired and then closed by large healthcare systems are another example of decision-making by those seeking to maximize profit, not community benefit.
Dr. Rogers and other representatives from Physicians for a National Health Program had success on Capitol Hill when they petitioned Congress and HHS to reject DCEs. While PNHP’s efforts were influential regarding DCEs, she describes how it didn’t take long for a new acronym and strategy to emerge. “Same shirt, different color,” she says about ACO REACH (ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health). She emphasizes the remarkable lack of oversight by Congress for this program that can be hoisted on patients without patients realizing that their traditional Medicare decision has been overruled.
Also in this episode:
- The powerful impact of a high school biology teacher
- Activism in the time of role model Angela Davis
- A Tuskegee airman who exemplified the bond between physician and patient
- She was able to see patients as people: “They shared their lives with me”
- “Are you going to open your own office?” a question rarely posed to medical students now that 70%+ physicians are employed
- Burgeoning full-service hospitals arising in close proximity are as logical as putting a town’s four fire stations on facing corners.
Meet Susan Rogers, M.D.
Dr. Susan Rogers is president of Physicians for a National Health Program, a national organization with over 23,000 physician members, whose mission is to advocate for Single Payer/Medicare for All.
Dr. Rogers received her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She spent most of her career at Cook County Hospital (now Stroger Hospital of Cook County), where she practiced internal medicine in a neighborhood clinic before becoming a hospitalist and Director of Medical Student Programs for the Department of Medicine. She has also worked at the Lakeside VA hospital in Chicago affiliated with Northwestern and was a prior Medical Director at Near North Health Services, an FQHC in Chicago.
She retired in 2014 but remains a voluntary attending at Stroger Hospital and continues as active faculty at Rush University in Chicago as an Assistant Professor of Medicine.
Dr. Rogers is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a member of the National Medical Association.
- Physicians for a National Health Program: https://pnhp.org
- Protect Medicare: https://protectmedicare.net
- Twitter: @rgrsssn @PNHP #M4A and #BLM
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