Sunday, June 22, 2008

Medicare Payment Reduction: Medical Tsunami

On July 1st, Medicare payments to physicians and their services drop 10%. This is an attempt to stay the increasing cost associated with Medicare and US Budget (ala huge deficit). Medicare support of physicians for providing care to the eligible population is a small but obviously vital portion of what it "costs" to provide health-care to the senior population of our country. Payments to hospitals and for drug coverage have taken hits as well, but to the soldiers in the trenches, those actually using their personal skill, art and time, this will be another spit in the face.

Physicians note multiple economic pressures increasing the 'cost' of providing care which include; mandatory reporting and filing overhead costs, IT/medical record costs, increasing salary support to at least maintain cost of living increases for non-physician support staff (nurses, filers, receptionists...), increasing malpractice premiums...all in addition to what EVERYONE else is experiencing namely increasing fuel and goods costs, and mounting inflationary pressure in the US economy...

Medicare has not even met sustainable cost of living or inflationary increases in physician reimbursement over the pats several decades, in effect decreasing reimbursement to physicians every year. Making matters worse, the private insurance companies tie their reimbursement rates to Medicare, thus insuring that payments for our work from them will decline as well.

This represents an UNSUSTAINABLE model of economics. Many will comment that "Doctors are rich anyways", forgetting that low per-hour pay, delays in income and debt due to training, and risk exposure mandate reasonable compensation for providing a service that most of the population feel is an inalienable right. While this is going-on, few point the finger at the insurance executives who are on record as the HIGHEST level of corporate compensations at times in the near hundred-million if not BILLION dollar range (ala United Health Care CEO), pharma execs and hospital corps not far behind...none of whom have taken a single night of ER call.

On Monday June 23rd, we must ALL contact our Congressional representatives to support Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331) introduced by the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, John Dingell (D-MI). The bill will hopefully prevent the 10% decrease and ask for a small increase of 1.1% for 2009.

NOW is the time for us to band together and stop being marked as the easy target for fair compensation. If we don't our profession will be drowned by the Medical Tsunami brewing in the ocean of third-party payors.

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