By Richard Amerling, M.D.
Too many physicians endorse the “single payer” concept. Some are legitimately frustrated by the increasing difficulty in getting paid by private insurance companies and so called “health maintenance organizations.” My response is, “What if the single payer is Medicaid?” Unless ObamaCare is defeated in the Supreme Court, or defunded/repealed by Congress, we may soon be in a position to answer that question.
It has become clear that a major goal of ObamaCare is massive expansion of Medicaid. It mandates that states increase Medicaid eligibility, and provides temporary funding to this end. Medicaid rolls in many states have already swelled due to the prolonged recession and high unemployment. According to CNNMoney: “Strapped states are scrambling to address Medicaid’s ballooning costs before the federal government cuts back a critical source of funding this week. Medicaid is one of state’s costliest burdens. And the weak economy swelled the rolls to record numbers. Nearly 49 million people — or almost one in six Americans — were covered by the safety net at the end of 2009, the latest figures available.” From a Kaiser Foundation study: “…states reported an average increase in Medicaid spending of 8.8 percent across all states in fiscal year 2010, the highest rate of growth in eight years and well above their original projections…”
Furthermore, federal control of private health insurance and the bureaucratization of private medicine under ObamaCare will lead all private insurance down towards Medicare and Medicaid levels. Dictating who and what must be covered, at what price, and how much must be spent on care vs. administration/profit, will very likely lead to major cuts in provider reimbursement, and more intense micromanagement of care.
Medicaid is an excellent example of a failed government program. Even a cursory look at Medicaid should convince any rational person that government has no business being involved with health care. It was created in 1965-66 as an “add-on” to Medicare, the major entitlement passed as part of the Great Society under LBJ. While Medicare bribed physicians with “usual, customary, and reasonable” reimbursement (and a long-forgotten pledge not to interfere with care), Medicaid payments to physicians were, from the outset, pathetic. Thus, Medicaid was set up as a third tier system; one that would relegate its beneficiaries to hospital emergency rooms and clinics, rather than to private medical offices. Medicaid payments to physicians to this date in most states are well below the cost of care. The minimal participation of private physicians in the Medicaid program, which was by design, doomed the program to provide very expensive, fragmented, low quality care. How can a program that virtually excludes private physicians now be expanded and hope to succeed? Obviously, it cannot.
ObamaCare mandates an increase in Medicaid physician payments to Medicare levels in the hope of inducing more doctors to participate. This might have worked ten or fifteen years ago when Medicare payments were decent. Now, through price controls and cuts, they too, barely cover the cost of treatment. Also, the boost is temporary; payments revert to current levels after two years. Why would doctors take on Medicaid patients under this scenario? Many will not participate.