I am writing in response to a comment made by Dr. J.D. Sheffield, our state representative for District 59 in a recent article in your paper on Dec. 6 with regards to policies made by the Obama administration and their purported impact on rural healthcare in the state. As an OB/GYN and medical doctor in the Stephenville area for almost 40 years, who also worked heavily with the DeLeon and Hamilton hospitals, I must wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Sheffield’s assessment of the federal impact on rural healthcare.
First, he singles out the Obama administration which has attempted to increase access to care in rural communities. He also states that he has seen negative impacts due to policies of the Obama administration which I find hard to believe because the only large scale policy the Obama administration has passed, the Affordable Care Act, is not only aimed at allowing more individuals to be able to access affordable and quality care but to increase the participation in preventative care that is endemically necessary in a society that is as unhealthy in its habits as America and indeed Texas are. Obesity rates are off the charts, as are diabetes, increased cholesterol, and other diseases that stem from poor diet and life choices. Preventative care will allow those who face these issues to discover them before they receive irreversible damage via heart attack, stroke, or the continued need of insulin. Aside from overlooking this fact, Dr. Sheffield also attempts to purport active negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act, which I will note is not even in effect and therefore whose lasting impacts may not be felt. It is understandable for a family to find frustration that it must devote a portion of its monthly income to its own health and well-being because they currently do not, but in doing so the same family can avoid the financial pitfalls of major medical issues down the road by skimping on care today. However, the same family has not as of yet seen what that money is getting them in terms of increased standard of care. I would also like to note that I have also practiced medicine in England, which has true socialized medicine, and that I believe that the implementation in rural Texas will only add to the standard of care. I will gladly renew this debate with Dr. Sheffield at this time next year, after there is some data as to the impact of the effect of the ACA in both District 59 and in rural Texas at large.
Dr. Sheffield must also note the efforts from the Obama administration to increase Women’s Health, my field of specialization, in the state. The federal funding was denied by the state because the current Republican administration sought to play politics with the lives of women to gain votes from zealous conservatives. The federal government then figured out a way to give the money to a coalition of women’s health organizations in the state because it does aim to increase the standard of care for all Texans, including those in rural areas.
As a doctor, we have a standard of ethics for the care of our patients, and we take an oath to help their health above all things. This does not change because we seek political office. I would advise Dr. Sheffield to keep the true health and safety of both the constituents of District 59 and the entire state that he now represents in this position when making decisions that affect state health.
Dr. Jasbir S. Ahluwalia