Friday, May 2, 2008

I want out (of Medicare)

This morning I woke up with a swelling in my left cheek. It didn’t hurt, but it had happened once before and Linda and I decided I needed to see a doctor. We’re new in town, having recently moved to Austin, TX from Rochester, MI. So we first called a doctor Linda had just started seeing. We got an appointment, but while I was filling out the forms they saw I had listed Medicare as my primary insurer. They stopped the process right there. “We don’t take Medicare,” they said. We called another doctor they recommended, with the same result. In all we called 6 doctors, and in every case either they were booked or they didn’t take Medicare. Finally we went to an outpatient facility associated with a hospital.

This is what Americans can look forward to if Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s health care plans is implemented. Because of the bureaucratic delays, below market reimbursement rates and excessive regulation, many doctors in private practice won’t want to deal with the government system. But in my case it’s not a matter of looking forward. My care crisis is here. If I am going to have health insurance I don’t want to be treated like a skid row bum or a third world peasant. I would far rather pay an exorbitant premium that gets me prompt service, especially when I have a serious concern. It’s time to go back to work, get into a health plan and tell Medicare to go suck eggs.

You may say, “The government can correct this problem by passing a law requiring all doctors to take Medicare patients.” Then we would have the situation that exists in Canada. Doctors, overloaded with mandated patients who don’t pay market rates, would choose to retire earlier, and for similar reasons fewer young people would choose to enter the medical profession. The result for patients would be long waits for treatment. Better to let the market determine the cost and availability of care. That way people won’t die while waiting for treatment.

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