Thursday, May 15, 2008

Medicare For All?

Some "single-payer" advocates say that universal health care could be run along the lines of "Medicare For All". Except for the fact that if we had Medicare for everyone, then physicians would be out of business, as internist Dr. David Dale recently testified to the US Congress:
The practice of medicine is a calling and as such, my colleagues and I have endured more unfair revenue cuts than most businesses would have endured. Yet, a medical practice is also a small business, and there are limits to how much we can endure. We are now at the point where further cuts are not survivable. Just like any small business, our revenue has to exceed costs in order to survive. Despite everything that I have been able to do to cut costs, the margin of profit is now thin, and the proposed greater than 10 percent cut will put us out of business. The only option will be to downsize the practice and stop seeing all Medicare patients. I would hate this, but it will be the only option I have if Congress does not reverse the proposed cuts.
Others would-be reformers want to expand Medicaid to achieve "universal coverage". However, the April 5, 2008 New York Times reported the following from Massachusetts family practitioner Dr. Katherine Atkinson:
Dr. Atkinson, 45, said she paid herself a salary of $110,000 last year. Her insurance reimbursements often do not cover her costs, she said.

"I calculated that every time I have a Medicaid patient, it's like handing them a $20 bill when they leave," she said. "I never went into medicine to get rich, but I never expected to feel as disrespected as I feel. Where is the incentive for a practice like ours?"
These unsustainable economic distortions are predictable consequences of government interference in the free markets for health insurance and health care.