The Blindness Of The Left To The Consequences Of Their Decisions: The Medicare Edition

Liberal golden boy Matthew Yglesias says that the Medicare program’s “low reimbursement rates are a feature not a bug.” In other words, the fact that the government doesn’t pay fair market value for the services is good news!

Why?

Consequently, there’s strong political pressure for generous benefits. That means, on the one hand, that funding levels are high. But it also means that there’s a reasonable amount of interest in getting as much health care services per dollar as possible. Consequently, providers are paid enough to make it worth their while to see Medicare patients, but much less than they’d like to make. The result is not a perfect program (far from it) but this particular aspect of Medicare is an example of big government at its best–serving clients’ interests rather than those of providers.

It is fair to say that Medicare’s below market rate payments reduce the costs for the government — but, as always, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Those costs that the government doesn’t pay are passed on to everyone else. In other words, one of the reasons that health care is so expensive in the first place is because the government doesn’t pay the full cost of Medicare treatment and doctors who treat those patients recoup their money by passing those costs on to the rest of us. Moreover, despite the fact that everyone else is paying more so the government can get a bargain, Medicare is on track to bankrupt the entire country. That’s not much of a deal.

Additionally, Yglesias couldn’t be more wrong about making “it worth their while to see Medicare patients.” A frighteningly large percentage of doctors have looked at those reimbursement rates and have decided it’s not worth their while to see Medicare patients:

The solution to this problem is to find doctors who accept Medicare insurance – and to do it well before reaching age 65. But that is not always easy, especially if you are looking for an internist, a primary care doctor who deals with adults. Of the 93 internists affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, for example, only 37 accept Medicare, according to the hospital’s Web site.

Two trends are converging: there is a shortage of internists nationally – the American College of Physicians, the organization for internists, estimates that by 2025 there will be 35,000 to 45,000 fewer than the population needs – and internists are increasingly unwilling to accept new Medicare patients.

In a June 2008 report, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal panel that advises Congress on Medicare, said that 29 percent of the Medicare beneficiaries it surveyed who were looking for a primary care doctor had a problem finding one to treat them, up from 24 percent the year before. And a 2008 survey by the Texas Medical Association found that while 58 percent of the state’s doctors took new Medicare patients, only 38 percent of primary care doctors did.

What’s happening there? Medicare reimbursement rates are so low that many doctors are simply opting not to treat those patients at all rather than passing the costs on to other customers.

In other words, we have a program that is too politically popular to scale back. Yet, we’re underpaying for services so much that the program is becoming less viable by the day while simultaneously costing us so much that it’s impossible to sustain without drastic measures. What’s the liberal solution to this enormous problem? It’s to double down by expanding the program and allowing more Americans to opt in.

God save this country from these liberal imbeciles who can’t see their nose in front of their face.

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