According to the email, Cooper unleashed his inner Don Rickles, throwing one insult after another at the physicians, who are members of the Anesthesia Medical Group. A sampling of his remarks (all of which his office confirms he made):
* "Your Washington lobbyists are obviously doing a very bad job for you or you wouldn't be so misinformed."
* "[I] never cease to be amazed at how poorly informed physicians are about the health care system."
* "Since the '60s real wages have remained flat. But physician reimbursements have grown 2-3 percent above the rate of inflation for the last 40 years. That's a transfer of about $800 billion. And you're not even grateful for it. Don't recall ever getting a thank you note for that. ..."
* "It's fine if you don't like my plan. Where is your plan? Physicians don't have a plan. You can't always be against something. You need to be for something"
* "You probably don't know this either, but did you know that a couple of Tennessee counties have the highest narcotic prescription use in the nation? Doctors passing out pills like candy. And you guys don't do anything about it"
* "[It's] almost impossible to get rid of bad doctors"
* "Wouldn't you think you'd be a little more educated about your own profession?"
* "Medicine used to be a profession. You've lost that. Now you just want to be employees."
* And lastly to the group's CEO David Whitten: "You've obviously forgotten most of what you learned in business school."
In the email, Whitten says:
"The meeting was an amazing display of arrogance, disdain and disregard. It would have taken some extraordinary effort for Mr. Cooper to have been any ruder than he was to us. His utter and complete lack of respect for physicians was completely and unapologetically evident. He clearly believes himself to be far better informed on health care than any of us. It is possible he may be but to be so dismissive of our concerns and to sling insults left and right was truly a sight to behold."
During an appearance on WTN talk radio yesterday, host Ralph Bristol asked Cooper about the meeting, and the congressman responded lamely that he thought doctor-patient confidentiality applied, as if these physicians were giving him a check-up while he berated them. Here's that exchange with Bristol:
Q: Do you have a general lack of respect for doctors and their knowledge of the system that they are working in?
Cooper: No Ralph, I love doctors. I want the best medical advice for me and my family and for everybody in it in this country. I do think that doctors are very busy people, I know that they are really stressed out right now and I know that they have to rely on other people, nurses inclouded, and yes, some doctor groups have Washington lobbyists and I have been critical of their lobbyists in Washington because for example, the largest group of doctors in America, the AMA, endorsed HR3200. Now most doctors I've talked to back here are not for HR3200, and they are not even aware that their own lobbyists have endorsed it back in Washington. So that's the sort of disconnect that I was referring to. but I really was surpised by that email because I thought when you met with your own doctor or another group of doctors in a private meeting that what was said was confidential. I meet with doctors all the time. Half my kin folks are doctors. I love doctors."
Pith isn't sure what to make of all this but, if Cooper's pissing off doctors, he's probably on the right track here. Cooper's flack, Peter Boogaard, defends his boss for his honesty, saying it's not unusual for the congressman to speak candidly with players in the health care debate:
"Jim went to their offices, at their request, and asked him to speak frankly. He did. When the pharmaceutical people and the health insurance companies want to meet, he's equally as frank with them. He thinks the whole system is screwed up, and that EVERYONE has a role to play in fixing it. There are a lot of vested interests, and a lot of people don't want change. He even faults many already-insured patients, because so many people have no 'skin in the game' or price-sensitivity for all of the treatment that they receive that they often don't need, costs a lot, and can harm them. Shannon Brownlee's book 'Overtreated' is one of the books that he recommends to anybody who wants to understand the whole system, because she sort of blames everyone."