A couple of news headlines paint a bleak picture about the future of healthcare in this country.
First are some comments made by US Republican Senator George LeMieux. During a news briefing (video here), LeMieux expressed a concern that Obama’s healthcare plan would amount to “Medicaid for the masses” and would put all Americans on a government run or government controlled health care.
The Palm Beach Post News also ran a story regarding a speech given by Senator LeMieux where he stated that the cost of the bill over the next 10 years was grossly understated due to “funny math”. He estimated the true cost of the bill to be more than $2.5 billion over 10 years rather than the projected $849 million.
LeMieux stated that in order to decrease costs, the bill intends to cut Medicare spending by more than $500 billion – through $400 billion in cuts to home health providers, hospitals, hospices and others while decreasing subsidies to Medicare recipients by more than $100 billion.
My favorite quote from the article is the following: “If we really want to provide health care for Americans, why shouldn’t we give them the tools to go out into the marketplace and be a consumer, which we know will end up driving down costs.”
Another free market advocate. I love it.
As our legislatures plans to significantly cut spending on the Medicare program, today several Massachusetts hospitals are filing a lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts because the current reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid are already too low. According to this article in the Boston Herald, Massachusetts currently reimburses hospitals for only 40% to 86% of the costs of providing care. Because at least 63% of patients going to these hospitals have Medicare or Medicaid, the low payments are pushing many hospitals “to the brink of financial ruin.” The state countered by stating that it recently increased payment to the hospitals by 10 percent. Unfortunately even a 10% increase still leaves hospital payments at 44% to 95% of the cost of providing care – still below the break even point.
No business can stay afloat when the costs of doing business exceed revenues.
Recall that in 2006, Massachusetts was the same state that established a mandate that every person in the state have health insurance … similar to the mandate proposed in the current US health care bill.
Also recall how, since this Massachusetts mandate was created, the number of visits to Massachusetts emergency departments increased 7 percent and how the cost of caring for patients in Massachusetts emergency departments increased 17 percent – due to the lack of primary care providers in the state.
Oh yeah, and in a survey last year, only 2% of graduating medical students in the country plan to go into primary care internal medicine.
So the plan in Massachusetts to insure all of its state residents has resulted in almost every state resident having insurance … and in more people having trouble finding care.
The greater number of insured patients increases the costs of providing care to those patients.
Then, to control costs, the government cuts or maintains ridiculously low payment schedules to providers – to the point that the providers are having difficulty staying in business.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to your new national health care system.
The current health care bill plans to cut Medicare spending by $500 billion.
Medicare plans to cut physician reimbursement by 21% next month.
What good will your new health insurance be few providers are willing or able to provide care for you?
The biggest myth of this health care debate is that having “insurance” is equivalent to having “health care.” The two are not the same, nor will they ever be the same. Just ask people who have Medicaid “insurance.”
If the hospitals in Massachusetts want to get more reimbursements, suing the state is the wrong way to go about doing so. In this case, lawsuits are a costly lose-lose situation. All the money the hospitals spend in attorneys’ fees and court costs could be put to better use. Boston Medical Center already tried suing the state for the same reason and the litigation is still dragging out in court.
A lobbyist once told me that the quickest way to enact change is to cause a public outcry.
You hospitals want an increase in funding? Drop the lawsuits and just shut your doors. Take your ball and go home. Too many patients and almost every legislator in our government take their access to health care for granted. Let patients walk up to your facility with their insurance card in hand and let them jiggle the handle on on the door a few times before realizing that they cannot get inside. Stop providing care until the state and federal government provide better reimbursement.
If it costs these hospitals more to provide care than the hospitals are being paid, closing the doors would save the hospitals money each day that the doors are closed. Divert ambulances. Transfer admitted patients to other facilities. The 1.5 million patients each year, including more than 300,000 emergency department patients each year that are being treated at the near-bankrupt Massachusetts hospitals will have to be redirected to another facility to find their care – if care is available.
At the entrances of each closed hospital, post giant pictures of the state and national legislators and an explanation of how their actions or failures to act have caused the hospital to close. Make sure to include the date that the legislators are up for re-election.
Then give the local news stations a call to let them know what’s happening.
They’d have funding within a week.