Gadget42 Note: Regardless of all the vast distortions in health-care and medicine, the doctor-patient relationship is still a voluntary one. Unless the patients think they can put a gun to the doctor’s head to force treatments. Much the same as folks should refuse to patronize the commercial airlines and the pornoscanners, all health-care professionals should refuse to perform their vocations without full cash payments in advance. Who will the looters find to treat them when they have chased all the doctors away?
Payments could be reduced 23 percent by Dec. 1 unless Congress acts
Breast cancer surgeon Kathryn Wagner has posted a warning in her waiting room about a different sort of risk to patients’ health: She’ll stop taking new Medicare cases if Congress allows looming cuts in doctors’ pay to go through.
The scheduled cuts — the result of a failed system set up years ago to control costs — have raised alarms that real damage to Medicare could result if the lame-duck Congress winds up in a partisan standoff and fails to act by Dec. 1. That’s when an initial 23 percent reduction would hit.
Neither Democrats nor newly empowered Republicans want the sudden cuts, but there’s no consensus on how to stave them off. The debate over high deficits complicates matters, since every penny going to make doctors whole will probably have to come from cuts elsewhere. A reprieve of a few months may be the likeliest outcome. That may not reassure doctors.
“My frustration level is at a nine or 10 right now,” said Wagner, who practices in San Antonio. “I am exceptionally exhausted with these annual and biannual threats to cut my reimbursement by drastic amounts. As a business person, I can’t budget at all because I have no idea how much money is going to come in. Medicine is a business. Private practice is a business.”
The cuts have nothing to do with President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. They’re the consequence of a 1990s budget-balancing law whose requirements Congress has routinely postponed. But these cuts don’t go away; they come back for a bigger bite.
Doctors have muddled through with temporary reprieves for years. This time,medical groups estimate that as many as two-thirds of doctors would stop taking new Medicare patients, throwing the health program for 46 million older and disabled people into turmoil just when the first baby boomers will become eligible.