By the time you read these words, our long national nightmare will be over. I refer, of course, to the process of selecting the next president.

While the new administration will have its hands more than full with urgent priorites, there's little question that our health-care system is in for major change and will likely look very different four years from today.

Physicians have a reputaton for being hands-off when it comes to involvement in the political process. Too busy practicing medicine, they'll write checks, says the conventional wisdom, but don't expect much more. Well, ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please. The game has changed.

Whether it's President Obama or President McCain, change is coming to health-care financing, and if you're not in it, someone else will be making major decisons about how you interact with patients and how you're reimbursed. The lame (no, not lame duck) Congress of the past two years cannot be allowed to fritter away another two in partisan bickering.

We're fortunate this month to have an longtime friend of the Review return to kick off some discussion about how we got where we are and what the future might hold. I strongly recommend you spend some time with Dr. George Spaeth beginning on the next page. Agree with him or no, he offers a unique place to start thinking about what's ahead. I invite you to share your thoughts here and get a discussion going.

We at this publication don't make predictions about such things as elections, and we assiduously avoid even the appearance of any politcal partisanship. Our readers are not so bound.

Our National Panel report this month features panelists' views and preferences on the presidential election. No surprise that our Panel (historically, pro-Republican) favors Senator McCain. They also weigh on the important issues facing the new administration.

While we welcome and for the most part print the write-in comments of our Panel, I was slightly taken aback by the write-in comments of one of our panelists, who called Senator Obama a "communist" who as president would "limit  freedom of speech," among other dire outcomes. Now that the election is decided, let me assure you, doctor, as one who toils at the fringes of the freedom of speech business, an Obama presidency would [expunge] if it ever [delete] and besides, [redact; not hopeful enough].
So please, sleep easy tonight.