Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Where Are All The Doctors And Nurses Going?

Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN, CCP, answers that critical question in her recent blog post:
Last month, my physician friend said he was shutting down his office practice and taking a job as a hospitalist. He’s a great, caring doctor who also volunteers his time each week to provide free care on the Indian reservation. I asked why he was making this difficult decision, but already knew the answer before he confirmed it: He’d had it with the avalanche of bureaucratic paperwork and reporting regulations that requires several full-time office employees to deal with, insurers who all had different ideas on how he should practice medicine that weren’t always in the best interests of his patients, ‘quality’ measures that weren’t about quality, third-party payers who were reducing reimbursements and requiring more of his staff to continually fight just to get paid, and he couldn’t afford the 10.1% pay cut that goes into effect next month. Practicing family medicine no longer offered a viable future.

Lots of Americans probably don’t realize that doctors are getting their pay cut 10% by the largest single payer in the country — Medicare — reimbursements that are already often lower than the costs of providing the patient care. Nor do they know about the lobbying interests shaping the evolving healthcare system and the practice of medicine, as well as making these cost-containment reimbursement decisions. Many doctors know this is just the opening salvo into what it will be like for them to become employees under a single-payer plan taking shape. Nurses learned similar lessons years ago, hence, the severe nursing shortages. But patients don’t know what it will be like to be patients. As babyboomers face years when they most need healthcare, these issues will affect them more than ever.
More government control of medicine is not the answer to America's health care problems; the free market is. (Via Arwen Morton.)

Update: The federal government may delay the Medicare rate cuts for another 6 months. Of course, this doesn't solve the underlying problem, it merely postpones it temporarily.