Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Everyone is painfully aware about the lingering crises regarding Medicare. Many patients wonder if they can afford the premiums in the future. Meanwhile many physicians worry that they will not be able to continue to take on new Medicare patients (or continue to see all those they currently see) due to the proposed cuts in reimbursements.
According to a recent article in the American Medical News (a publication of the American Medical Association) despite the long-term financial meltdown Medicare is facing, during this election year, Congress will not likely take the actions needed to keep the program viable.
A 2008 Medicare trustees report, released in March of 2008, projects that Medicare Part B will increase by approximately 6.2% each year through the 2017, assuming that scheduled pay cuts to physicians will take place over the next nine years. Specifically, physician pay cuts are estimated at 40%.
In addition, if lawmakers are successful in preventing the pay cuts to physicians using the same tactics they have used in the past few years, Part B expenditures will grow by approximately 8% annually.
Everyone has cause for concern. Many seniors live on a fixed income and may not be able to absorb any cost increases. Since medical illnesses, and thus medical expenses increase as we age, short of a miracle, the cost of health care for all of us will continue to climb for the foreseeable future. Health care expenditures have been growing much faster than the rate of growth of the economy. Who knows where it will end?
It appears that the state of Medicare is pitting patients against physicians. On the one hand, if the proposed physicians pay cuts are prevented, Medicare beneficiaries may find themselves paying a bigger piece of the pie, but it is important to look at it from the eyes of physicians as well.
Most doctors genuinely care about their patients and are committed to providing the best care for them possible. But in America, health care is not just a healing profession. By virtue of the tremendous amount of money it takes to keep things running, health care is also a business. As in any other business, if you cannot pay the bills, the lights get turned off, staff members quit, and the business closes. Medical practices are no different.
While no one knows what the future will hold, there is, no doubt, cause for major concern. We cannot predict what will happen to us, but we can do all that we can to ward off diseases by eating a healthful diet and keeping active. If doing these simple, and free, things can ward off a heart attack or stroke by 3 or 4 years, it is worth the effort?
Likewise, learning how to help your doctor help you can go a tremendous way in not only improving the quality of your health, but also in saving you money on unnecessary medical expenses.
It is time to baton down the hatches. A major storm is coming.
ThePatient Whiz is a credit card-size 1 GB USB flash drive that easily fits into your wallet to empower you to keep copies of EKGs, lab results, medications lists and much more with you at all times. It doubles as a patient empowerment tool with articles such as the one above.