Physicians Are Talking About: The Million Med March on Washington

Nancy R. Terry


September 15, 2009

"I'm tired, mad as hell, and just not going to take it anymore," says Richard Chudacoff, MD, a gynecologist from Las Vegas. "I am going to Washington, DC. At noon, on Thursday, October 1, 2009, I will be on the Mall with a few other physicians."

Dr. Chudacoff is not talking about vacation plans. Rather, he intends to unite with other physicians in what he calls the Million Med March.

"We simply decided that we will not work that day and perhaps the day before and maybe even the day afterward," says Dr. Chudacoff. "Perhaps we will show the country that physicians are worth more than a $5 copay; that physicians are more important than a mid-level healthcare worker; and that our profession is needed, our services are required, and our practice is a calling to be respected, not a trade that is to be negotiated to the lowest bidder."

A letter posted by Dr. Chudacoff on in June has been spreading like wildfire across the Internet, finding its way to personal blogs, discussion groups, and professional forums. On June 23, it was posted to Medscape's Physician Connect (MPC), a physician-only discussion group, where it sparked a flurry of responses. A number of MPC postings suggest that Dr. Chudacoff will have plenty of company on October 1.

"Finally, something constructive," says a dermatologist. "I'll see you in DC on October 1. Some of the office staff, including our nurse, expressed a wish to be there too. Bring spouses and friends and anybody else who actually cares about healthcare in the US."

"I have cleared my schedule and plan to attend," responds a vascular surgeon. "I think this type of grassroots action, unaffiliated with hospitals, insurance companies, or the AMA, is likely to get the most sympathetic attention."

"This is the best proactive effort I have heard from physicians," says an MPC family medicine physician. "Actions speak louder than words."

"I can be there without changing my schedule," adds an anesthesiologist. "I was just terminated from my office-based practice where I have been for 7 years."

One physician's decision to take a stand and unite with his fellow colleagues has given doctors a simple way to show the public and elected officials that healthcare, for them, is not a political agenda. It is their life and livelihood. And in recent weeks, the partisan discussions in the Senate and House of Representatives on healthcare legislation have seemingly marginalized -- and at times even maligned -- physicians.

"I was for nationalized healthcare," says a family medicine physician, "but I thought that meant providing a safety net for needy Americans. But this monster of a bill is something quite different."

"Politicians and payers have turned our profession into a political football," retorts an anesthesiologist.

President Obama's recent tonsillectomy remark, in which he insinuated that doctors make medical decisions based on what they would be paid for a procedure rather than the best treatment for the patient, has further incensed physicians. "As a hard-working, conscientious physician, I am offended. It's like racial stereotyping. Only now it's about a group that is mostly overworked, tired, and saving people's lives," retorts a family medicine practitioner.

If the president is looking for greed within the healthcare system, Dr. Chudacoff suggests that he not take aim at primary care physicians. Chudacoff adds, "Medicine is going corporate, and we physicians are just flipping burgers so corporations have an improved bottom line."

Although fair compensation is an important issue among the organizers of the Million Med March, it is not the only issue. Medicine has become a toxic environment in which to work. Dr. Chudacoff underscores the situation. "Quality of care suffers with less time to see patients and less reimbursement received when we do see patients. We cannot do pro bono work as we have in the past because we have to see an ever increasing number of patients. This extra work is forced upon us when insurance companies, especially Medicare and Medicaid, constantly refuse to pay us in a timely fashion for our time and efforts. And then once we do see patients, our clinical acumen is stifled as we must follow a cookbook approach to patient care. It is time that we stand up for ourselves."

A vascular surgeon comments, "We can lead the way to real reform. Now is clearly the time to act, not just type."

On July 10, an MPC contributor and one of the supporters of the Million Med March launched a Website,, to build support for the October event. The site announces a physician grassroots movement to re-establish honor, dignity, and worth to the medical profession. "The Million Med March movement has taken off, on so many sites, and within so many communities. Why now? The debate on national healthcare has forced this conversation, and this conversation has pushed us over the tipping point."

The mandate as stated on the Million Med March Website includes the following points:

  • Services must be adequately reimbursed so that we may spend more time with our patients and not be forced to see an unsafe number of patients to pay for increased business costs.

  • Less money must go into the hands of insurance companies' administrative costs, and more money must go towards patient care and medical research.

  • We must abolish third-party payers or prevent a single-payer system for office visits and medical services; these services are costly to the patient, physician, and society as a whole.

  • Our patients need access to brand-name drugs that are as affordable in the United States as in Canada and Mexico.

  • We must have medical malpractice reform, with caps on all damages, so that we can practice without the fear of needless and unwarranted lawsuits that only benefit attorneys.

Some MPC contributors voice concern that the Million Med March scheduled for October will occur too late to have any meaningful impact on healthcare reform. "The health reform bill is going nowhere," says an anesthesiologist. "Let's make a major statement between its failure and the next attempt to marginalize the docs."

A plastic surgeon adds, "Stand up for our profession and come to DC."

The full discussion of the Million Med March is available at:

View this and other discussions in Physician Connect (physicians only; click here to learn more).


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