DR. HOOK- Squeeze play: How Congress upset Prez on Medicare
Do rich people rely on Medicare? It seems to me the way the US government keeps trying to cut Medicare, the answer is, "Of course not, Buffy and Skippy!" Chortle, chortle, nasal honk. "Now where did I put my yacht?"
Senior citizens tend to have the most need for healthcare, and the demand on Medicare is increasing. The 35 million elderly folks will increase to 71 million by 2030. That's 20 percent of the US population.
However, each year the rich US government officials try to slash Medicare benefits to patients and payment to healthcare providers. Right now you pay more at the gas pump to fill your car than Medicare pays your doctor for a 15-minute visit. Hmmm, maybe I should start selling gas at the office? My nurses can fill your tank while I treat your congestive heart failure.
I didn't realize George W. Bush is only 62. I thought he was 108. (Isn't it interesting how the presidency makes men old? Bill Clinton went from a hip saxophone player to Father Time during his time in office.) But on July 15, almost-Medicare-eligible Bush vetoed the legislation to stop a 10.6 percent cut in payments to doctors. Hello! I don't see him cutting fuel prices (or his own salary).
My overhead to run a medical practice is out of control. Even the stupid gown supplier added a fuel charge on top of the previous fuel charge. All the other medical supplies cost more as well, our own health insurance premiums could more than buy a Mercedes each year, and our utilities keep going up. I don't get to raise my prices because our insurance rates are all pegged to Medicare rates. So if anything, shouldn't doctors be getting a raise to meet the cost of living?
When I give steroid injections, say to a knee, my patients have said to me, "Hey, you use that cooling agent– and lidocaine to reduce the pain! My other doctors don't." You know why? Medicare stopped paying for those things, so it's not cost-effective anymore. Wait until they cut anesthesia!
Many doctors don't give vaccinations anymore because the price of vaccines is higher than Medicare or private insurance will pay.
Medicare won't pay for a urine specimen to be handled and sent to a lab, because a needle stick needs to be involved for payment. But even if you do require a needle stick for labs, Medicare pays something like a big whopping $2. The material to draw the blood and to properly dispose of the medical waste costs more.
In January, Congress is going to vote again about cutting Medicare payments. If Medicare drops, I'm sure a huge percentage of doctors will stop participating in Medicare.
When doctors were informed that the Senate didn't have enough votes to stop Medicare cuts, I emailed all my patients about it– in fact, I called Senator Warner. I respect Senator Warner, who qualifies for Medicare (though I have a feeling he has his own private insurance). So I was shocked to hear he initially favored the Medicare cuts. I think he got a lot of calls, as must have the House and Senate, because they overturned President Bush's veto: Senate 70-26, House 383-41.
(By the way, when is the last time Washington voted to lower their salaries?)
Things need to change. We already rank so low in the world for healthcare. Pay cuts are only going to hurt patients in the end. In some countries, you BYOB. Not as in "bring your own bottle" to a party, but bring your own clean needles, blood tubes, pap smear tools, gloves, etc. to survive.