In the United States, unnecessary health care spending amounts to about $750 billion every year, as estimated by the Institute of Medicine. Even more worrying is the fact that doctors, especially general physicians, have to admit more patients than before to compensate for their decreased payments. However, that means that they will allot less time when you conduct a consultation with them, leading to possible unnoticed health issues or even unnecessary tests and medicine.
“There is no more wasteful entity in medicine than a rushed doctor,” said Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist and author of Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician. He remarked that calling in specialists was already troublesome for both the physician and the patient, as they are not paid to extensively cooperate with each other to accurately determine the causes of health problems. This means that you could incur more losses and waste more precious time getting supposedly better with all the prescribed drugs and examinations, particularly if you have a disease — common to older adults — that cannot be cured through separate and specialized checkups.
It does seem that our healthcare has become a paradox, wherein cutting down costs in the wrong areas meant potentially opening yourself up to monetary and health issues. “They called a pulmonologist. They told me to follow up with my cardiologist. I told them it had nothing to do with it. It was the fish!,” an irked patient once told Sandeep Jauhar.
In December 2014, it was reported that the expansion of Obamacare’s Medicaid meant that more Americans — numbering up to nine million since its inclusion to Obamacare — would benefit from it. However, the short-term pay increase to persuade physicians to admit more people under the program was said to expire at the beginning of the year.
A study published by political think tank Urban Institute revealed that your average physician can have payments for primary care services cut down by as much as 42.8%. “Now reimbursement is so low I have to see at least 30 [patients a day],” an internist told Sandeep Jauhar.
So what are the solutions to this wide-spreading debacle? Two options have been provided by Sandeep Jauhar: give doctors salaries just like how employees are paid to remove the financial burden of admitting more patients but with less time allotted for each, or utilize bundled payments to dissuade physicians from seeking the assistance of specialists.
Last December, Dr. Steven Sack of the American Medical Association stated that Medicare has backfired in its attempt to provide better lives for both physicians and patients. In essence, the problem lies with the laws and regulations themselves. While health care should be affordable for every American, as Sandeep Jauhar quipped, reducing the payments of doctors — who decide whether patients should undergo a number medical tests or not — only exacerbates the financial difficulties of both parties in the business and practice of medicine. The key, therefore, is to concentrate policy-making on the factors that would cause unnecessary health care spending. And this includes the request for specialists to help physicians make supposedly better decisions.