With Senator Bunning’s 5-day filibuster out of the way, the Senate was finally able to pass a month-long delay on SGR cuts (and extend unemployment benefits.) But a month-long extension is hardly a cure. It’s hardly a band-aid. The real problem is with the SGR itself. Medicare’s reimbursement for treatment needs to be addressed and revised so that it provides fair and equitable compensation. Then doctors can return their full attention to treating patients instead of worrying about how to keep the doors open for those patients.
Meanwhile, President Obama continues with the dog and pony show, lab coat props all around, suggesting that physicians are solidly behind the feeble excuse of health care reform. Pardon me, Mr. President, but could you tell your stage dressers that it takes more than a garment to make a doctor, and more than those props to get the American people to believe that physicians are actually endorsing such a pathetic and woefully inept excuse for Health Care Reform?
The SGR (so-called Sustainable Growth Rate) method of compensation is really just one symptom of the diseased health care system. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to replace the dysfunctional SGR system back in November 2009. Yet it sits unanswered by the Senate; who just keep us all on the edge of our seats, passing temporary band-aids one after another. The real solution is the honest intent to pay physicians fairly for services provided.
Historically, politics stayed out of medical practices. Perhaps it’s time that physicians let their patients know what’s going on in Congress BEFORE the situation becomes untenable. Most patients are largely unaware of all of the problems with the SGR. Perhaps if their constituents were to tell Senators to get serious about Medicare compensation, then the Senate would pass something more significant that a 30-day band-aid.
What’s certain is that no practice can afford to continue providing care to patients at any lower reimbursement rate. It’s difficult (read: impossible) to sustain a practice at the current rate. The money has to come from somewhere. We will all pay the price, every member of our society, one way or the other. Why not simply agree to compensate physicians fairly for the services they provide, instead of looking for ways to shortchange the people who dedicate their lives to keeping us all alive and well? Indeed, the solution has more to do with appreciation than band-aids.