Issues, Medicare, Social Security

Doctors Firing Medicare Patients

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It’s common for patients to go to many doctors looking for different opinions.

What is uncommon is doctors who essentially “fire” patients and refuse to continue treating them.

But that is happening all over the country thanks to Obamacare and attendant changes in Medicare.

Here is one story about how Medicare patients are dropped by doctors:

Image Source: Public Domain from the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health

Image Source: Public Domain from the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health

Not too long ago my step-dad had to spend a few days in intensive care. Pretty scary stuff.

He had just about every nasty symptom imaginable, from constant vomiting to dizziness to ultra-high fever, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

Fortunately his condition improved enough that he was released from the hospital, and now he’s on the mend.

Now, my step-dad is a Medicare patient. But he just found out that he’s been unceremoniously dropped by his Primary Care doctor.

Apparently his physician dropped all of her Medicare patients in one giant culling.

That’s right. If you become too sick, a doctor may have no choice but to “fire” you as a patient.

It turns out that physicians across the country have been firing Medicare patients; and according to a late 2015 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21% of physicians are not taking new Medicare patients.

The main reason doctors are firing Medicare patients are the draconian requirements of recent Obamacare regulations and severe cuts in Medicare reimbursements.

Much of this trend is based on stiff penalties and financial disincentives from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and 2015’s Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization (MACRA) Act.

MACRA in particular is completely mystifying.

The law created a whopping 2,400 pages of regulations that Medicare physicians are expected to know and follow.

Many of the rules are debilitating.

For instance, MACRA changed how physicians can be reimbursed for their Medicare patients by establishing a bizarre set of standards to determine if a physician is providing “value”.

As an example, if a patient ends up in the emergency room, his or her physician can incur a steep penalty.

This explains why my step-dad was dropped by his doctor.

The healthcare system has been broken to the point that physicians now have a greater incentive to fire their Medicare patients than to treat them.

These reforms were supposed to save Medicare but as you can see they are failing miserably.  The Medicare trust fund is still projected to be bankrupt by 2026.

The date of this bankruptcy may come sooner if these so-called savings measures are repealed.  That leaves very few palatable options.

Oh, and bailing out Medicare isn’t an option either.

They would need TRILLIONS of dollars to fully fund Medicare, which is just about impossible for a government that loses hundreds of billions each year and already has a $20 trillion debt.

I’m not suggesting they’ll let Medicare go bust.

More than likely they’ll just come up with some band-aid fix that has terrible consequences.

For example, they could bail out Medicare by stealing from Social Security.

Bear in mind that Social Security is a total mess.

Back in the 1960s there were nearly 6.5 active workers paying into the system for every Social Security recipient.

Today that worker-to-beneficiary ratio has fallen by nearly half.

There simply aren’t enough workers paying into the system to support the swelling number of retirees.

That’s why Social Security is terminally underfunded.

And stealing from its trust funds to support Medicare would merely accelerate the demise of Social Security.

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