Small Town Doc Talks Healthcare with White House

John Commins, May 9, 2012

Tim McKnight, MD, a family physician from Dennison, OH, believes government has a role in healthcare delivery, but not necessarily a big role.

"I think the less government is involved the better off we are," says McKnight, who is not a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

So when McKnight and three dozen other healthcare providers were invited to meet with cabinet-level members of the White House Rural Council this month, he was skeptical, but he accepted.

"I thought they would be more about promoting their policies and give us very little if any time to express our concerns," McKnight says of the May 1 meeting in Washington, DC, which was hosted by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"Two-thirds of the meeting was about them listening to us and I was impressed with that. I felt like they were listening intently. A lot of topics were discussed," he says. "They said they were going to take this back, discuss it, and rehash it, and come together and decide their next step. Let's see what happens."

To be clear, McKnight is not anti-government. He just doesn't believe that all of the problems that plague healthcare delivery in this country can be solved with a government fiat.

In fact, McKnight says he is the product of successful federal healthcare policy. He had no plans to practice in a rural area when he graduated from medical school in 1997 until he tapped federal government debt forgiveness and scholarship programs that situated him in this eastern Ohio town of 2,650 or so souls.

"Traditionally, the problem has been the new docs go to the rural site, you do your time, and you move back to the suburbs or where your ideal practice is. They weren't able to retain them," he says.

Rather than plot an escape, McKnight, his wife, and their three children have made Dennison their home. 

"I did thank the council for the scholarship and the loan repayment. I told them I felt like this was a successful placement because in my case, I fell in love with the area and I am committed to [it]  and to my patients," he says.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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