Medicare: A Preview Of How Socialized Medicine Will Drive Doctors Out Of Health Care

There’s a reason why conservatives want to shift health care tax breaks from companies to individuals, institute tort reform, and allow people to buy insurance from any state: it’s because it will cover many more Americans, drive costs down, and increase choice for consumers.

On the other hand, Obama favors socialized medicine which will drive costs up, decrease the quality of medical care, and drive doctors out of the business.

Just look at what’s happening with Medicare and you can get a preview of what’s going to happen over the long-term if Barack Obama and his pals in Congress get their way,

EARLY this year, Barbara Plumb, a freelance editor and writer in New York who is on Medicare, received a disturbing letter. Her gynecologist informed her that she was opting out of Medicare. When Ms. Plumb asked her primary-care doctor to recommend another gynecologist who took Medicare, the doctor responded that she didn’t know any — and that if Ms. Plumb found one she liked, could she call and tell her the name?

Many people, just as they become eligible for Medicare, discover that the insurance rug has been pulled out from under them. Some doctors — often internists but also gastroenterologists, gynecologists, psychiatrists and other specialists — are no longer accepting Medicare, either because they have opted out of the insurance system or they are not accepting new patients with Medicare coverage. The doctors’ reasons: reimbursement rates are too low and paperwork too much of a hassle.

…Doctors who have opted out of Medicare can charge whatever they want, but they cannot bill Medicare for reimbursement, nor may their patients. Medigap, or supplemental insurance, policies usually do not provide coverage when Medicare doesn’t, so the entire bill is the patient’s responsibility.

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 had a problem finding a primary care doctor or specialist to treat them, up from 24 percent the year before. Those looking for a primary care doctor had more difficulty. 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.

It’s worth noting that this problem is being entirely created by the government.

How?

Well, to control Medicare costs, they’re paying less than what the services provided by these doctors are worth on the market. Additionally, the government — being the government — demands a freakish amount of paper work for every transaction.

Over time, as the government demands have grown more taxing, less and less doctors have continued to accept Medicare. That’s one problem — but the government is creating the shortage of doctors as well.

How?

Well, it’s extremely expensive and time consuming to become a doctor. Typically, you’re going spend roughly 8 years in college, come out of it $100,000+ in debt, and then you’re going to work like a slave for another couple of years somewhere as an intern learning the business.

Then, and only then, can you really start making your money back in a high pressure, demanding job where you constantly have the threat of a lawsuit hanging over your head.

In other words, given what you have to do to become a doctor, the financial rewards are going to have to be very high to make it worth it.

But, setting aside the lawsuits and government underpayments via Medicare, what inevitably happens with socialized medicine? Doctors get dramatically underpaid as well because that’s how the government gets their costs down.

So, in other words, people are looking forward, seeing that the long-term payoff isn’t worth the price they’ll have to pay to become a doctor, and they’re picking a profession other than medicine to go into. That’s the market at work and it’s only going to get worse over time if the government interference in the market increases.

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