Chavez destabilizes region; don’t blame U.S., Colombia

Colombia is an important friend and ally, and the U.S.-Colombia DCA strengthens the already excellent partnership between our countries. In spite of reports to the contrary, this bilateral agreement simply regularizes existing security cooperation between the United States and Colombia. It envisions no permanent U.S. bases or increased military deployments.

In fact, it is not U.S. cooperation with Colombia that has “provoked regional instability”; it is the increasingly bellicose words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His negative rhetoric against the U.S. and our allies in Latin America and around the world continues almost unabated every day. On Nov. 9, he urged Venezuelans to prepare for war with Colombia.

While President Chavez continues to use the U.S. and Colombia as scapegoats for his own domestic troubles, the real challenge for regional stability lies in President Chavez’s increasingly cozy relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently said that Venezuela is “serving as a bridge to help Iran build relations with other Latin American countries.”

Finally, I welcome commentary from Ambassador Alvarez and other Venezuelan government officials in the American press. Unfortunately, the press freedom that exists in the United States and allows Venezuelan government officials to freely express their views in our country is increasingly targeted in Venezuela.

According to a recent report from the International Crisis Group, the Venezuelan government “has shut down 34 radio and two television stations in 2009, and administrative procedures have begun to explore possible cancellation of the licenses of a further 210 local radio stations and 40 television stations.”

President Obama has opened a new era of engagement with all of our partners in the Americas. The U.S.-Colombia DCA is just one small piece of our expanding relationship with the hemisphere, and I would welcome the opportunity to extend U.S. cooperation with our neighbors in the hemisphere to achieve our jointly held goals of reducing violence, improving citizen security, combating the illicit drug trade, and increasing prosperity for all.

Washington, D.C.

Doctor shortage and healthcare reform

From Joseph W. Stubbs, M.D., president of the American College of Physicians

In his Nov. 17 column “Doctor shortage,” Dick Morris uses words from me to suggest that a shortage of primary care physicians is a reason to oppose healthcare reform. Actually, the American College of Physicians (ACP) — the second-largest doctors’ group in the country — has determined that the solution is to enact policies to increase the numbers of primary care physicians and expand coverage, as the House and Senate bills would do.

In an interview last week with Bloomberg News, I confirmed that “the supply of doctors just won’t be there” for the 30 million new patients President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJudge orders Walker to hold special elections Mueller investigates, Peters quits Fox, White House leaks abound 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives MORE wants to cover. Mr. Morris also correctly quoted me as saying that the doctor shortage is “already a catastrophic crisis.” The problem is that interest among medical students going into the primary care specialties of general internal medicine and family medicine have reached an all-time low, with only 2 percent of fourth-year medical students expressing a preference for general internal medicine. At the same time, more and more practicing primary care physicians are leaving practice or retiring early.

However, in that interview, I also provided ways that the doctor shortage can be overcome, including reforming how physicians are paid and providing scholarships and loan repayment to primary care physicians. The good news is that the health reform bills make a good start in enacting such reforms. They would increase Medicare and Medicaid payments to primary care physicians, expand the National Health Services Corps, provide loan repayment for primary care physicians who practice in an area of the country with high need, increase funding for need-based scholarships, and expand primary care residency programs.

Mr. Morris is wrong that the primary care shortage is a reason to oppose healthcare reform. Instead, we need to enact policies to expand access to coverage and increase the numbers of primary care physicians, as the House and Senate health reform bills propose to do.

Albany, Ga.