Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Armstrong: Obamacare Grants Doctors Liberty to Withhold Care

Dr. Richard Armstrong of Docs4PatientCare has a new OpEd in the 2/15/2012 Washington Times, "Obamacare grants doctors liberty to withhold care".

He dissects the new Orwellian language in which government controls over physicians are now a new form of "freedom". Here's an excerpt:
The law promotes a “new” model, the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), in which an entity that covers a specified number of Medicare patients is given a fixed pot of money. This is quite similar to the HMO capitation systems that caused tremendous backlash in the early 1990s. In both, if the doctors can provide care for less than what is in the pot over a defined period, they get to share the leftovers. If, however, the doctors overspend the pot, they are financially liable for the consequences. With sleight of hand and fanciful re-packaging, Dr. Emanuel attempts to convince physicians that this gallows for private practice somehow improves and enhances autonomy. Nice try, but doctors have been fooled once, which is quite enough.
In particular:
Either consciously or subliminally, the message is the same: The less you spend on patient care, the more you gain financially. This is the reality of the ACO model and the "new ethics" of government cost control in medicine, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. Shouldn't economic and professional decisions be transparent in medicine, where doctors and patients make joint decisions based upon available resources, not some underlying, unspoken financial advantage for the physician to offer the patient less.
This system rewards doctors for denying care, while pretending to the patient (and themselves) that they're merely practicing "efficient" medicine and "parsimonious care".

I highly recommend reading the full text of "Obamacare grants doctors liberty to withhold care".