Sunday, June 6, 2010

Medicare, Freedom and the Road to Financial Hell

If anything is the opposite of an unexpected event, it is the aging process. Yet our government continues to ignore the obvious solution for its fiscal ills: freedom. Here is the NYT editorializing in The Doctor Payment Follies:

The formula that is used to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients is producing increasingly absurd results. If it were to be followed this year, doctors would face a 21 percent cut in payments for the tests, procedures, office visits and other services they provide to elderly Americans.

That would be a disaster, driving many doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients. Luckily, nobody is seriously contemplating that. As it has done repeatedly in recent years, Congress is readying a short-term fix that would provide a modest increase in physician fees for the next 19 months.

Please consider reading the entire, brief editorial, though that is not necessary to understand my points.

Let us pick a nit. Why does the Times use the word "luckily"?

Of course this is not a chance decision as implied by "luck". The entire Obamacare premise involved false accounting, in this case that the "doc fix" would actually occur. But of course the "fix" was "in". So, billions of unfunded dollars later, the government comes to the rescue of doctors and patients. But what about the interests of the $10/hour 40 year old clerk at Wal-Mart? Why is government always picking winners?

The answer is truly simple. The government can cut its payments 21% and doctors can regain the freedom to charge fairly for their services. All the government has to do is eliminate the fee controls. What will happen is that doctors will accept as full payment the lower fee schedule for those patients who can not afford to see them at the higher rates. The better-off patients will pay more out of pocket.

And the Wal-Mart clerk will then also be treated fairly. And the government will be serving notice that it is finally going to get its own financial house in order.

Till that happens (don't hold your breath), more downside economic "surprises" are likely.

Copyright (C) Long Lake LLC 2010

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