Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fresh Band-Aid for Medicare...

Recall this December 2007 blog post?

Band Aids are NOT good healthcare for Seniors

Well, yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed yet another piece of band-aid legislation to prevent the 10.6% cut in physician reimbursement from Medicare until the end of 2009. The Senate is likely to vote on this legislation within a week and then it goes to Mr. Bush to sign (who has threatened a veto, details at Washington Post.

You know, I honestly am wondering if it might be better for this pay cut to happen... here's why:

Massive Collateral Damage! If the pay cut happens then many doctors will cut back on seeing Medicare patients, some will stop participating in Medicare all-together, some will leave their small town or urban practices for better practice environments, and some will quit medicine entirely. It will essentially be a non-unionized, non-organized strike, and boy oh boy would the fallout cause some heads to roll. Patients and their families would start a grassroots campaign of political revenge like no other.

However, the damage this would do to our seniors, their families, physicians (and their families) would be too great.

You know, despite the humanitarian values of medical students, we have to consider entering specialties where we can actually make money to pay off our student loans, buy houses, etc. Choosing a Medicare dominated specialty right now is a major risk. Physicians automatically lose money on most medicare patient visits, period. They make that loss up by billing more for services to other non-medicare patients. They have to or else they go out of business.

The system needs surgery, not a band aid. It will get surgery if we elect a President who cares about Health Care. We need a President who understands that we are THE ONLY industrialized nation without a Universal Healthcare System. We need a President who understands that you can't have a free market in health care because you lack an informed consumer (do you know if you have gall stones?), and the willingness to price shop (are you going to haggle with your surgeon over the price of your gallbladder surgery? Do you want the 'Closeout Sale' on last year's pacemakers?). Those two requirements of a free market do not exist in health care and thus any statement that market forces will drive down health care costs is a very risky statement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aren't doctors amoung the highest paid professionals in America? Even with the awful amount of student debt, doctors are not known for being poor. It seems vastly out of proportion to say that cutting back physician reimbursement by 10.6% from Medicare would cause massive collateral damage. Maybe a few docs need to wait to buy a new BMW for a few years while they pay off their freely chosen student debt.

Don't get me entirely wrong, I think it is great that you are a med student and are going into such a caring field. But I think that sometimes us professionals think that we deserve to be paid more than we really need. We freely took on the student debt, and we should not have to turn away patients to pay off the debt while trying to get the income that we think we "deserve". This is where a national healthcare system would help docs not to turn away anyone, but then again, wouldn't we see a huge salary drop there too? hmm... it looks like in either case the BM'er will have to wait.