Why Doctors Are Abandoning Medicare

Physicians will not be bullied into bankruptcy. Our system needs reform, but what’s being hammered out in Washington is not the answer.

By C.L. Gray
FOXNews.com
January 14, 2010

Two weeks ago the Mayo Clinic shocked the nation when it closed the doors of one of its Arizona clinics to patients on Medicare. Just this past June President Obama himself praised Mayo as a model of medical efficiency noting that Mayo gives “the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm.” If Mayo feels compelled to walk away from this government-run program, others will surely follow. The nation must understand why.

Doctors are leaving Medicare for two reasons: one obvious, the other more concealed.

The first is simple—the math:

1) For the past decade Medicare consistently paid physicians 20% less than traditional insurance companies for identical service.

2) On January 1, 2010 Washington made hidden cuts to Medicare by altering its billing codes.

3) Medicare will cut physician reimbursement by another 21% on March 1. The CBO said this cut must take place if the Senate healthcare bill was to “reduced the deficit.”

4) Even more, Congress pledged to cut Medicare by yet another $500 billion. Again, the CBO said this additional cut must take place if the Senate healthcare bill was to “reduced the deficit.”
Many physicians were operating at a loss even before this series of massive cuts. In 2008, Mayo Clinic posted an $840 million loss in caring for Medicare patients. No businesses can survive when patient care expenses exceed revenue.

The second is more ominous—Washington’s increasingly abusive posture toward physicians.
President Obama reflected this attitude last summer. On national television, he stated as fact a surgeon is paid between $30,000 and $50,000 for amputating a patient’s foot.

In reality, a surgeon is paid between $740 and $1,140 to perform this unfortunate, but often life-saving procedure. This reimbursement must cover a pre-operative evaluation the day of surgery, the surgery, and follow-up for 90 days after surgery—not to mention malpractice insurance, salaries for clinic nurses, and clinic overhead. It is frightening to think our president is so wildly misinformed even as he stands on the cusp of overhauling American health care. But it gets worse.

The article continues at FoxNews.com

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