Coffee heat rising

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Vulnerable…Again!

What is it about Americans and American politicians that we think it’s OK to let the rich and the corporations get by with low or no taxes and then cover the deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society?

Our government, much reviled by the right for its new “progressive” leadership, is going to cut Medicare reimbursements to doctors by 21 percent!

Medicare reimbursements already don’t cover a doctor’s cost of doing business. Many doctors here won’t see patients who are on Medicare, and many more won’t take on new Medicare patients. The Mayo, where my doctor moved after “managed care” by HMOs first started making physicians’ lives miserable, will (for the time being) keep seeing you if were a regular patient before you were switched to Medicare, but it will not accept new Medicare recipients. One branch of the Mayo here in the Valley, a practice on the west side, fired all its Medicare patients and now sees no one who doesn’t have private insurance.

I expect that will be the way the main Mayo Clinic will go, too. Even though the present cut may (or may not) be temporary, the message is clear: expect a permanent version in the near future.

{sigh} The level of medical care here in Arizona leaves a lot to be desired. No doubt there are horror stories in every state in the union, but I’ll bet in many states not every single resident has a story to tell. In Arizona, unless you’re lucky enough and stubborn enough to stay away from doctors and hospitals, you’ve got a war story. The Mayo is one of only three hospitals (the last I looked) that has a top rating in national rankings of clinical care and safety.

So, when you find a decent doctor, you want to hang on to that doctor. The last thing you want is to be bounced from doctor to doctor, or to be forced to see someone whose competence you mistrust or who is too overworked to spend more than five minutes speaking with you.

It’s not “Cadillac care” to have a doctor whose skills are competent and who has fifteen or twenty minutes (or more, preferably) to listen to a patient and arrive at a thoughtful diagnosis.

This vicious slash in Medicare is going to put a lot of elderly people out on the street and yes, bouncing from doctor to doctor. If they can even find a doctor. It will push most of us into low-quality clinics or to hungry young practitioners without the experience and wisdom one needs to see in a doctor. I’m still fairly young—only just eligible for Medicare—and I’m too old to go through that. Imagine the suffering and just plain bad medical care this will inflict on people who are too frail to fight the system!