Monday, January 28, 2008

Unintended Consequences of Medical Laws

Here are just a few unintended consequences of the government imposing laws in the health care market, compiled by Dr. Toni Brayer, an internal medicine physician in California:
Health care is filled with the unintended consequences of laws, regulations and poor planning that plague our ability to care for patients. Here are a few, in no particular order. You may have more to add.

* Lab laws. I used to be able to contract with labs to do tests on my patients. I negotiated a low fee, kept a few dollars for lab draw and my services and everyone won. Enter California Legislature. Now patients have to go to another lab for blood tests. Pap smears cost $55 rather than $7 and a blood panel that was $22 now costs $180. Unintended consequence: Primary care lost a revenue stream, patients get gouged on test costs. (By the way, this law was sponsored by the big laboratories.)

* Employee break legislation. A wonderful new law says all employees (think nurses) must take a lunch break within 5 hours of starting a shift, even if she is taking care of a patient, in the OR, dieting, or just not hungry. To stagger breaks some nurses will be eating lunch at 9:30 AM. Yes, more nurses will be hired to cover breaks. Unintended consequence: Watch health care costs continue to soar.

* Stark Laws. Primary care physicians are not allowed to invest in ambulatory care centers or surgi-centers. It's fine for surgeons, anesthesiologists, gastroenterologists and all others to be part of the out-patient trends for patient care and they are partnering with hospitals and other organizations across the U.S. Unintended consequence: More reasons for demise of Primary Care.

* Discounts Illegal. Medicare and Health insurers have made it illegal for physicians to offer discounts for their share of the co-pay for covered services. I guess they think patients will utilize more service (?) if they don't pay their share. Unintended consequence: Patients pay more even if they need a break.

* New Triplicate Laws. The State and Feds have made it so difficult to prescribe pain medication with special prescription pads and regulations regarding refills that physicians are hamstrung in prescribing the best medication. Unintended consequence: patients that need pain meds aren't getting them or are getting the wrong (no triplicate needed) med instead.
By interfering the free market, governments harm both doctors and patients.

(Via KevinMD.)