Fayetteville doc outspoken reformer 

Says insurance companies just get in the way.

click to enlarge GARNER: Makes White House call.
  • GARNER: Makes White House call.

About 60 percent of Dr. Hershey Garner's patients are on Medicare, and they're the ones who are happiest with their health care, he says. It's the patients covered by Blue Cross, and other private insurers, who have the big problems, according to Garner. They're the ones who are informed that their insurer won't pay for certain treatment, the ones told to bring thousands of dollars to the hospital the next day if they want a procedure that's already been scheduled.

And that's why Garner, a Fayetteville oncologist, wants a “Medicare for everybody” sort of health-care reform. His support for this sort of reform, and his willingness to talk about it publicly, got him an invitation to the White House for a meeting with President Obama on health care last week. Garner, a member of a pro-reform group called Doctors for America, was one of four physicians who appeared on-stage with Obama, and whose pictures were widely disseminated by the news media. A group of a hundred or so doctors, representing various groups, sat in the audience and heard an address from Obama.

Observers speculated that Garner was chosen for the elite group because he's from Arkansas, and U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which is working on health care legislation, and she has not been supportive of the kind of bill that Obama wants. Garner said the White House didn't ask him to try to influence Lincoln and other members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, but the White House didn't need to.

“I've been writing letters to Blanche and making phone calls for the last couple of months, since she's been so backward on health care,” Garner said. He's made contact with all the members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, in fact, except for his own congressman, U.S. Rep. John Boozman of the Third District. Boozman, the only Republican in the delegation, is opposed to substantive health-care reform. Garner said he hadn't talked to Boozman because “That's kind of a lost cause, as far as I can tell.”

Although Garner's first choice would be a single-payer, “Medicare for everybody” kind of health care, he's come to believe that an alternate proposal, the “robust government option,” is “probably the best we can hope for at this point.” This proposal would allow the government to offer health insurance in competition with private insurance companies. The insurance companies are violently opposed, and they have allies in Congress, including Lincoln and U.S. Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas's Fourth District.

“Nobody can explain to me what the insurance companies add to the health-care system,” Garner said, “except to get in between me and my patients.”

Garner recently appeared on a news program with a former American Medical Association president “who wanted to just give the insurance companies more customers,” but he said that few practicing physicians are sympathetic to the private insurers. He cited a recent survey of doctors conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The survey showed that 10 percent of doctors want a single-payer plan in lieu of private insurance, and 63 percent favor the “robust public option.” In other words, three-fourths of doctors want major change in the present health-care system.

The Senate health-care bill omits the government option. Legislation from the House of Representatives includes the government option. Garner said that after his meeting with Obama, “I'm a lot more optimistic than I was last week.”

“I'm hoping that we'll get something more progressive out of the reconciliation committee,” Garner said. “I hope the House will stand up for the people. I know the senators are going to stand up for the insurance companies. I can tell where their loyalties lie.”

Garner, 56, grew up in Little Rock and earned his medical degree at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.     



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • LR Central student scores perfect on ACT

    The Little Rock School District announced yesterday that Karina Bao, a senior at Little Rock Central High School, had scored a perfect 36 composite score on the four-part ACT test, an achievement by less than a tenth of one percent of the 2.1 million who took the test.
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

  • Trump country

    Even in deep red Arkansas, Trump could damage some down-ballot Republicans — but will boost others.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Youth movement

    Irvin Camacho, 24, hopes to be the first Latino elected to the Arkansas legislature.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    Nate Looney vs. Rep. Brandt Smith for District 58.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation