Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Medicare Misery

As the Medicare political controversy heats up, two recent articles make points worth remembering.

First, the Covert Rationing blog correctly states:
The current physician reimbursement system is emblematic of what we might expect if we turned the entire healthcare system over to the government, and those who rail against such a single-payer system ought to use this example as an object lesson.
(I may disagree with some other points on that website, but I agree completely with the point quoted.)

Second, more and more physicians are looking to escape the Medicare/Medicaid system altogther:
...[M]ore and more Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare due to growing cuts in reimbursement. And the trend is not limited to Texas doctors. Primary care doctors from around the country have told ABC News that they too are either opting out of treating Medicare patients, or are preparing to do so if Congress once again OKs slashing reimbursement rates.

"Unfortunately, there are physicians that I know of in the Columbus, Ohio, area that are opting out [of Medicare]," said Dr. Mimi Ghosh, a family practice physician at the Ohio State University Medical Center. "Most physicians I know have taken a pay cut every year for years... Reimbursements are just getting worse, and more physicians are retiring early, or going to other careers [like] pharmaceuticals [or] real estate."
As the crunch gets worse, the government will be start recognizing that the current system is not sustainable in the long run, and it will faced with a choice between two fundamentally different alternatives. They could either shut down "escape valve" of the private sector altogether and force doctors to work for a government-run "universal" medical system.

Or they could admit that government-run medicine is a failure because it violates basic individual rights and free market principles, and instead work for the eventual elimination of Medicare and Medicaid and allowing the free market to work.

The first path will lead to death and misery for millions, whereas the second could bring quality affordable health care to millions who cannot currently afford it. The choice is up to us.

(Links via KevinMD.)