Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

But Can You Find a Doctor?

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Saturday night in a rare special session, the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed the Pelosi health care bill in by a slim margin of 220 to 215. This bill, if passed by the Senate, will allow the government to take over approximately one sixth of the American economy. However, that’s not the whole story.

Have you tried to get a doctor for a Medicare patient lately? Increasingly I’m hearing of people having problems even finding a doc who will take Medicare. And if you can’t find a doc, what good will even the best medical insurance do you? A friend experienced this recently. After years of having no health care, she finally got Medicare through Social Security disability. We were thrilled--until she tried to find a physician. You see, since Medicare pays only 80 cents on the dollar, physicians lose money treating Medicare. If they have limited hours available, expensive malpractice insurance, a huge office staff necessary to process the Medicare and insurance requirements… who will they fill a slot with? Since there’s already a physician shortage in many parts of the country, can you blame them for making the best business decisions they can? But if things are bad now, the health care bill will make it worse.

Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, wrote an excellent Wall Street Journal article called The Coming Shortage of Doctors: Our aging population is challenge enough. Try to get an appointment after health-care reform. He mentions several critical points:

• If the doctor shortage is not addressed and health-care reform is signed into law, millions of Americans will likely find themselves able to obtain insurance for the first time—but may be unable to find a doctor without a long delay. Why? Because expanding the number of insured patients but not the number of doctors will only increase the demand for services that already must meet the demands of an aging population.

• Even in the absence of health-care reform, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a shortage of at least 125,000 physicians by 2025, when the number of people over 65 will have increased by about 75% of what it is today—to 64 million from 37 million today.

• Doctors are also aging. By 2020, as many as one-third of the physicians currently practicing will likely retire.

I wish our esteemed lawmakers would understand the problem before they try to “fix” it!


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