USA Today brings us a story that should surprise no one. Medicare, the supposed model of a government run health care system, is finding that fewer and fewer doctors are willing to take on new patients under that system. They cite the low payments Medicare offers (or perhaps forces) for patient treatment. Baby boomers just now entering the system are going to find their choice of a doctor restricted.
The numbers break down like this:
• The American Academy of Family Physicians says 13% of respondents didn’t participate in Medicare last year, up from 8% in 2008 and 6% in 2004.
• The American Osteopathic Association says 15% of its members don’t participate in Medicare and 19% don’t accept new Medicare patients. If the cut is not reversed, it says, the numbers will double.
• The American Medical Association says 17% of more than 9,000 doctors surveyed restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice. Among primary care physicians, the rate is 31%.
Note especially that final group. Primary care physicians are the group of physicians that the newly passed health care reform law depends on to implement its “preventive care” regime.
The reason is rather simple and straight forward – Medicare offers 78% of what private insurance pays in compensation for a doctor’s services. Why doctors are leaving or restricting new Medicare patients is rather easy to understand as well:
“Physicians are saying, ‘I can’t afford to keep losing money,’ ” says Lori Heim, president of the family doctors’ group.
Consequently they cut or drastically restrict the source of the loss. While most doctors are not going to turn away existing Medicare patients, they may not accept new ones and finally, through attrition, close their practice to Medicare patients.
It isn’t rocket science – no good businessman is going to continue to do things in which the net result is a loss of money. And a doctor’s private practice is a business – one which employs a number of people. He or she, like any business person running a small business, cannot afford the losses. So they identify the problem and eliminate it.
As this continues it will put them in a direct confrontation with the federal government. It is anyone’s guess, given the current administration’s choices for wielding power, how that will turn out. But what this rejection of the compensation offered by government is doing is bringing to the fore is one of the underlying conflicts of the new health care law – the premise of the law is that government can control costs (and payments) and thereby make medical care less costly. The doctors are saying, go for it, but I’m not playing.
At some point, government is going to have too address those who make that declaration. We’ll then see how free of a country we really are, won’t we?
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The Democrats have made the claim that the AMA, doctors and nurses all support the Obama plan for health care reform. But if a new IBD/TIPP poll is to believed, it is possible a large number of doctors would leave their practice if the present version of health care reform was passed:
Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted, a new IBD/TIPP Poll has found.
And, like most Americans, a majority of doctors polled found the administration claims to be unbelievable:
72% of the doctors polled disagree with the administration’s claim that the government can cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.
Two-thirds, or 65%, of doctors say they oppose the proposed government expansion plan. This contradicts the administration’s claims that doctors are part of an “unprecedented coalition” supporting a medical overhaul.
Another fact that should be taken into consideration when the administration claims that the AMA supports their plan, presently the AMA only represents 18% of American physicians.
Four of nine doctors, or 45%, said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the plan the Democratic majority and White House have in mind.
In 2006, there were 800,000 doctors practicing in the US. A 45% reduction would leave 440,000 doctors to treat the present insured population plus the 40 million more the administration plans to add.
I’ll leave it to you to do the math, but if you can figure out how fewer physicians and more patients equals less cost, better care and no changes in the health care you enjoy today, I’d be interested to hear it.
If the answer is “rationing care”, I believe we’ve been saying that for quite some time, haven’t we?
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Remember, depending on the message you want to convey, stats can be very helpful:
a. The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
b. Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
c. Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171. (Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)
Now think about this…
a. The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000.
b. The number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) is 1,500.
c. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.000188.
Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.
Guns don’t kill people – doctors do!
The point, of course, is stats can be used to scare you to death, especially when used in limited context or in isolation. The world is a dangerous place. Accidents are going to happen. When the gun grabbers talk about taking your firearms to prevent accidents, remind them of this statistic. It’s just as “valid” as theirs and it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity.