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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why Physicians Are Going To Stop Accepting Medicare

This post by Stanley Feld, MD, originally appeared at Better Health.


President Obama's health care reform bill will not work. It is based on decreases in physician reimbursement while forcing physicians to increase overhead with unaffordable electronic medical records. More and more physician groups and practices are starting to realize that they cannot make a living from the reimbursement from Medicare. They are quitting taking new Medicare patients and trying to get rid of the old ones by not taking assignment.

President Obama's idea is to force physicians to be more efficient producers. It is very difficult to force anyone to do anything they cannot afford.

Click on the "More" link to continue reading this post.

President Obama also believes that physicians over-test patients in order to make money. Wrong! Much of the over testing comes from the practice of defensive medicine. Many physicians have been sued for under testing. No one is sued for doing a test. Yet there is not a word about malpractice reform in either version of the healthcare reform bill to decrease testing by eliminating defensive medicine.

President Obama's solution is to prohibit physicians from testing in their office even though it is more convenient and efficient for patients. Ancillary services can help with overhead and does increase physicians' efficiency of care.

In fact, the fees for the ancillary services in a physicians' office are generally much less expensive than the fees for ancillary services in hospitals. President Obama ignores this fact. He believes physicians over test for profit. This might be true in some cases. However, this abuse can be discovered with the information technology system we have at present. He believes he can force physicians to tests less if it is outsourced to the hospital.

Physicians on average earn 20% to 30% less from Medicare than they do from private patients, and many are dropping out of the program.

The administration is beginning to feel the kick-back from the physician community. I think this kick-back will escalate in the coming months. It will worsen the delivery of medical care.

"President Obama last year praised the Mayo Clinic as a "classic example" of how a health-care provider can offer "better outcomes" at lower cost."

How were better outcomes determined? The question is unanswered.

"Mayo said last week it will no longer accept Medicare patients at one of its primary care clinics in Arizona. Mayo said the decision is part of a two-year pilot program to determine if it should also drop Medicare patients at other facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota, which serve more than 500,000 seniors."

Mayo says it lost $840 million last year treating Medicare patients, the result of the program's low reimbursement rates.

In Arizona alone it lost $120 million dollars. The losses are usually made up by cost shifting to the private insurers and private patients. These losses are getting harder and harder to make up by cost shifting.

"Mayo Clinic loses a substantial amount of money every year due to the reimbursement schedule under Medicare," the institution said. "Decades of underfunding and paying for volume rather than value in Medicare have led us to this decision."

The media has reported that Mayo Clinic has only dropped accepting Medicare in a small clinic in Glendale, Ariz. It has been reported as an insignificant event by the traditional media. Mayo Clinic is being very civilized by not eliminating participation in Medicare in all the clinics at once. The Mayo Clinic is sending a message to President Obama and his future plans. It will also be a signal to physicians throughout the country.

Ninety-two percent of family physicians accept Medicare. Only about 73% of those are now accepting new patients. This reduction in participating physicians comes on top of a shortage of primary care physicians.

Patients struggle to find any specialist who will accept Medicare. This experience is greatest in the specialties of neurology, oncology and gynecology. Cardiology is next.

Last week cardiologists filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charging that the government's planned cutbacks will deal a major blow to medical care in the USA.

"It will force thousands of cardiologists to shutter their offices, sell diagnostic equipment and work for hospitals, which charge more for the same procedures."

The lawsuit is an attempt by a group of medical specialists to stave off steep Medicare fee cuts for routine office-based procedures such as nuclear stress tests and echocardiograms.

"What they've done is basically killed the private practice of cardiology," says Jack Lewin, CEO of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), which represents 90% of the roughly 40,000 heart specialists in the USA."

The government's response was politeness. It will hide behind regulations made as a result of congressional mandates. The result is typical bureaucratic gobbledygook.

"Jonathan Blum, director of the government's Center for Medicare Management, says the agency is bound by law not to increase spending when making reimbursement decisions each year."

"Lewin and other heart specialists met with Sebelius on Dec. 8 and explained their concerns. "I thought she was very empathic," he says, but Sebelius has yet to take action."

Kathryn Sebelius will not take action. Neither she nor President Obama really understands the problem, much less the solutions. One cardiologist said it is an efficient way of getting rid of cardiologists and ration access to care.

"It's so absurd, it's kind of funny," he says. "I know ACC doesn't think it's funny, but I do."

It isn't funny. It is an unintended consequence of government control of healthcare. Healthcare should be consumer driven not government controlled. Government should make appropriate rules to level the playing field for all stakeholders and then get out of the way.

A cardiologist in Silver City, N.M., not far from the Mexican border, said,

"The closest cardiologist to me is 150 miles away. With all these cuts coming, it will make it impossible for me to break even seeing 40 patients a day."

Does anyone want the government and its 118 new bureaucracies to take over medical care?

What is the problem?
1. The government is broke.
2. They have to reduce expenditures.
3. Physicians are the weakest link, politically, in the healthcare system because they are ineffectively represented.
4. The government will not fight the healthcare insurance industry's lobbying.
5. The government will not fight the Plaintiff attorney's lobbying.
6. The government will continue to waste taxpayers dollars on stakeholders who add little value to the treatment of sick patients.

It is about time groups of physicians started to make some noise.

Congratulations goes to the Mayo Clinic and the American College of Cardiology.

This post originally appeared on Better Health , a network of popular health bloggers brought together by Val Jones, MD. Better Health's mission is to support and promote health care professional bloggers, provide insightful and trustworthy health commentary, and help to inform health policy makers about the provider point of view on health care reform, science, research and patient care.

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3 Comments:

Blogger MarkM said...

Until we get a group of providers who care more about their patients than their incomes, this editorialist will be right. Please post your AGI with your comment.

January 28, 2010 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger james gaulte said...

I am surprised and I think encouraged that this entry was republished by an ACP sponsored site since ACP has supported the health care bill(s) or at least major parts of them.

January 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Ryan DuBosar said...

Re: James Gault's comments, ACP has gone on record in what it supports about health care reform elsewhere. Just one example is here: http://www.acpinternist.org/archives/2009/11/washington.htm

That said, there's a long history in journalism of giving time to different viewpoints, and ACP Internist upholds that tradition in its print and online venues.

January 28, 2010 at 12:27 PM  

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Send comments to ACP Internist staff at acpinternist@acponline.org.

Blog log

Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:

Albert Fuchs, MD
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.

And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.

Auscultation
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zackary Berger
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.

Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).

db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.

DrDialogue
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.

Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.

Everything Health
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.

FutureDocs
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.

Glass Hospital
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.

Gut Check
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.

I'm dok
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.

Informatics Professor
William Hersh, MD, FACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, posts his thoughts on various topics related to biomedical and health informatics.

David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.

Just Oncology
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.

KevinMD
Kevin Pho, MD, ACP Member, offers one of the Web's definitive sites for influential health commentary.

MD Whistleblower
Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.

Medical Lessons
Elaine Schattner, MD, FACP, shares her ideas on education, ethics in medicine, health care news and culture. Her views on medicine are informed by her past experiences in caring for patients, as a researcher in cancer immunology, and as a patient who's had breast cancer.

Mired in MedEd
Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.

More Musings
Rob Lamberts, MD, ACP Member, a med-peds and general practice internist, returns with "volume 2" of his personal musings about medicine, life, armadillos and Sasquatch at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind).

Prescriptions
David M. Sack, MD, FACP, practices general gastroenterology at a small community hospital in Connecticut. His blog is a series of musings on medicine, medical care, the health care system and medical ethics, in no particular order.

Reflections of a Grady Doctor
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, reflects on the personal side of being a doctor in a community hospital in Atlanta.

The Blog of Paul Sufka
Paul Sufka, MD, ACP Member, is a board certified rheumatologist in St. Paul, Minn. He was a chief resident in internal medicine with the University of Minnesota and then completed his fellowship training in rheumatology in June 2011 at the University of Minnesota Department of Rheumatology. His interests include the use of technology in medicine.

Technology in (Medical) Education
Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, FACP, is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management.

Peter A. Lipson, MD
Peter A. Lipson, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture.

Why is American Health Care So Expensive?
Janice Boughton, MD, FACP, practiced internal medicine for 20 years before adopting a career in hospital and primary care medicine as a locum tenens physician. She lives in Idaho when not traveling.

World's Best Site
Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician who has avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when he first wrote medically oriented computer programs. He is in practice in Tacoma, Washington.

Other blogs of note:

American Journal of Medicine
Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.

Clinical Correlations
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.

Interact MD
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.

PLoS Blog
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.

White Coat Rants
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.

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