USA Today reports that cardiologists, one of, if not the, most elite of surgical specialties, have filed suit against Kathleen Sebelius and the Health and Human Services department in hopes of heading off the Obama administration’s plans to make deep cuts in the amount of money Medicare will pay for life-saving heart exams and surgeries.
Some readers undoubtedly understand the inevitability of this action. For others, let me say that this is exactly the thing that I’ve been writing about in recent columns: Without sufficient compensation to the best and brightest of our physicians they will not stay in their professions, period. Moreover, the pool of newcomers to blighted fields will necessarily be of lower quality.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charges that the government’s planned cutbacks will deal a major blow to medical care in the USA, forcing thousands of cardiologists to shutter their offices, sell diagnostic equipment and work for hospitals, which charge more for the same procedures.
"What they’ve done is basically killed the private practice of cardiology," says Jack Lewin, CEO of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), which represents 90% of the roughly 40,000 heart specialists in the USA.
Any fool of a bureaucrat can cut costs in the short term by using the power of the government like a sledgehammer. I will never dispute that point. But what about the medium and long term effects? Is that even a consideration for this administration? Based on behavior, I would answer “No!”
Scott Smith, a cardiologist who works in rural Silver City, New Mexico had this to say:
“With all these cuts coming, it will make it impossible for me to break even seeing 40 patients a day.
"It’s so absurd, it’s kind of funny," he says. "I know ACC [American College of Cardiology] doesn’t think it’s funny. It’s an efficient way of getting rid of cardiology."
Surely that’s not an outcome desired by the Obama administration, is it? Perhaps it is. Health care must be allocated by some force, be it the market or the government. One way to shift costs from the elderly to younger, low-income patients would be to eliminate service offerings that cater to the former group.
Personally I don’t attribute such diabolical motives to the Obama administration. Nonetheless, such an outcome is in line with their stated goal of reducing Medicare spending while giving health insurance to the poor.
I do fear that this is merely the first of many instances of doctors being squeezed by government bureaucrats as a result of Democrats’ health care reform. As I’ve written before, such bully tactics are unacceptable and un-American. Doctors study long and hard to accumulate the knowledge and skill to execute their profession – longer and harder than any other – and they deserve to be rewarded in proportion to their talents and efforts. In no way should their income be constrained by the pay scale set forth by number crunchers in Washington D.C.
I’ll close with a question: Who do you want to take your 10-year-old daughter to see about heart surgery, a government-paid doctor with no incentive to do more than show up for an 8-hour day in the office and no chance to earn a better life for his/her own family or one who is free to practice medicine as he/she sees fit with the knowledge that any and all financial rewards are possible if positive results are attained in the O.R.?
(Consider conditions and outcomes at the government-run hospitals before answering…)