Perhaps stung by the charge that health care reform measures will create government “death panels” to determine who gets what care, the Baucus U.S. Senate bill cleverly shifts that onerous task to physicians. This is how it would work:
- For at least five years, Medicare physicians who wind up in the top 10% of physicians who spend the most per person for health care will lose 5% of their total Medicare reimbursements for that year.
- Not knowing where he/she stands in comparison to other physicians, doctors treating older people will be financially driven to order the least expensive tests and treatments so that they will not wind up in the 10% the government believes is spending too much money. There are no considerations of quality, efficiency or waste.
- The top 10% will be a moving figure. As Medicare spending is lowered, the top 10% will be a lower dollar amount.
- The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this provision will take $1 billion from Medicare payments over a period of six years.
As David O’Steen of National Right to Life stated in a news release: “This is the cruelest and most effective way to ensure that doctors are forced to ration care for their senior citizen patients. It takes the telltale fingerprints from the government: Instead of bureaucrats directly specifying the treatment denials that will mean death and poorer health for older people, it compels individual doctors to do the dirty work. It is an outrageous way to provide coverage for the uninsured — by taking it away from America’s senior citizens.”
And that is why I continue to write articles telling older people they have every reason to be afraid.