The issues 2 spine surgeons are watching this election year


Primaries are underway for the 2024 presidential election, and healthcare remains a pertinent topic for many voters.

Two spine surgeons discuss what they're watching from politicians this year.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. Becker's invites all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: What’s a career decision you wish you could go back in time to change? 

Please send responses to Carly Behm at by 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, March 6.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What policies and issues are you following most closely headed into the 2024 election? 

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Healthcare has become mostly a punchline in the 2024 election. The current administration is seemingly pushing the lie that physician fees are the main driver of cost of care and continue to cut reimbursements. The current Secretary of Health and Human Services, a lawyer by training, has accused physicians of "gouging patients" in an NPR interview last year. Meanwhile, insurers are posting quarterly profits in the billions and HHS has pursued a policy of not enforcing the No Surprises Act (NSA), a bipartisan bill, properly and making up its own rules allowing the insurers to set their own payment schedules, effectively lowering everyone's reimbursements, be they in-network or out-of-network. 

And on the other side, we have a party that has no plan or platform, and keeps telling us the new healthcare plan that they have had 13 years to craft will "be ready in 2 weeks." Vouchers for the elderly is a nonstarter. And if Medicare is dissolved, who gets the money in the trust? I am not sure about the rest of the public, but if Medicare is dismantled, I expect all the money deducted from each and every paycheck held by the government to be paid back - with interest.

At the end of the day, a bad plan is better than no plan.  

Christian Zimmerman, MD. St. Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): In the spirit of full disclosure lest not to shock nor offend (and to the dismay of roommates and a Massachusetts legacy) this 18-year-old college chemistry devotee voted for the incumbent Gerald Ford initiating a consistent pattern for the next half century. That being said, policies and politics continue to permeate most American lives especially this ramped up election year. Statistically, healthcare delivery continues to be ranked high on the list of concerns for most polled citizens, yet economics and the cost-of-living reality are more eminent and dialogue than previously witnessed in past years. The worriment of reimbursement decline, physician burnout and hospital closures are a substantive reflection of economic decline and distracted policy emphasis. If any provider/practitioner had an approval rating of less than 20%, their professional aspirations would be limited to panhandling. But to what metric or productive outcome do we as citizens, hold our elected leaders.  

Needless to say, a return to a more patriotic and prosperous mindset is preferential and hopefully shared by a voting majority. 

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