How to Vote, 2016-style

October 7, 2016

Voting in 2016, radiologist-style.

One of my all-time favorite comic strips, many election cycles ago, depicted a character at the polling place, struggling to choose between two Presidential candidates. Finally, he cast his ballot, and the voting machine responded by extending a mechanical arm to splat a pie in his face. Next panel, he was sitting on the curb alongside other pied voters, insisting that “It isn’t the result; what matters is we participated in the process.”

I’m not sure if I ever agonized over how to cast my vote, but safe to say I’ve long been too jaded for the matter to keep me lying awake at night. Putting aside that my solitary vote probably has as much chance swaying a national election as, say, winning the lottery and then “letting it ride” with the same lottery numbers to win a second time.

Fact is, I’m a lifelong resident of a deeply “blue” state, and my vote is either a drop in the ocean, or an anemic gob of spittle cast into a gale-force wind if I’m of a mind to be contrarian. Ditto for the “third party” option.

However, just shrugging and casting a vote goes against the grain. I am, after all, a diagnostic radiologist-a physician tasked with assimilating all of the available data and coming to an evidence-based decision, with significant consequences. Such as whether surgery gets performed, potentially dangerous meds get administered (or discontinued), or a patient gets admitted, transferred, discharged, etc.

Years of such behavior compel me to seek out information on the candidates so I can make an informed decision. Unfortunately, it rapidly becomes apparent that, unlike reading an imaging study, there is no objective data to be had. Everything is filtered through layers of bias-whether friends, family, social media, talking heads, or even supposedly impartial sources of news.

There seems to be no way to get “just the facts, ma’am.” If and when an objective, verifiable fact seems to present itself, invariably someone turns up to dispute it, or put it in a larger context that muddies the waters. Let alone the very real possibility that I, myself, am (knowingly or not) subjecting incoming information to my own bias, according to what I already believe.

So I narrow my focus, giving up on the notion that I’ll get a complete, thorough picture of what the candidates (and their parties) stand for. Heck, if I can get just one tidbit of information that seems reliable to me on some important topic or other, I’ll call it my “issue” for this election, and base my borderline inconsequential vote on it.

Health care seems a good choice-it’s my livelihood, and an area I presumably know something about. Plus, sooner or later I’ll likely wind up on the receiving rather than delivering end of the health care system. So, what have the candidates got to say about it?

Fortunately, like so much else in our political arena, it is neatly boiled down to a binary decision. Few things in reality are actually absolute dichotomies, but that’s what we seem to get-on every issue, this candidate wants this, and that candidate wants that. Once upon a time, I’m told our leaders used to compromise to arrive at a reasonable middle ground, but if I wanted fantasy I’d probably still plan on voting for Bernie.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"52623","attributes":{"alt":"Election","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_6124046545082","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6533","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 119px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Nerthuz/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

So the binary choice seems to be: Vote blue if you want PPACA (“Obamacare”) perpetuated and expanded. And vote red if you want it scrapped and replaced with something else. What else? Nobody knows. Presumably, something with less government involvement.

Well now, that sounds nice. The new law hasn’t done much for me, unless you count more noctors practicing medicine and ordering needless imaging for me to read (which at least keeps me employed). It’s forced me to change my own health insurance coverage, and pay substantially greater premiums for the privilege of sky high deductibles. Next year, for instance, my premiums stand to go up by something like 28%.

Meanwhile, I haven’t gotten a 28% raise, as one of the people providing the health care. I haven’t gotten a 1% hike, even. In fact, I’m earning less for my work than I did 8 years ago (but I do more work, so I make it up on volume as the joke goes). Plus, I’m getting taxed more to help pay for this thing.

I’m told the insurance companies are required to pay out a certain minimum percentage of their premiums for patient care, rather than just lining their own pockets. So, they aren’t keeping my 28%. The docs and facilities who’d be taking care of me if I actually used my health care coverage aren’t getting that 28%. Where is this extra cash siphoned from me going? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Fortunately, one of the blue team leaders, former President Bill Clinton himself, has now gone on record, confirming that PPACA is “the craziest thing in the world.” Well, hey, if even he’s saying it needs to be ditched, I guess that removes all doubt. I should be voting for the team that vows to ditch it.

Thanks, Bill!