I’ve written before on this blog about the propensity to blame physicians for the never-ending spiral of our health care costs. We talked about this in 1991 in “Big Business Medicine,” a chapter of Modern Medicine: What You’re Dying to Know. That was over 20 years ago now, but the game is the same, only bigger and more destructive.
The attempts to blame physicians for the high cost of health care continues to receive lots of press. Sometimes this tired refrain is based upon misuse of statistics. The Whisper Game illustrates the misuse of “evidence-based” medicine to cast blame upon physicians.
The press stories about Medicare fraud by physicians make a regular appearance in the media. Medicare Fraud that Isn’t illustrates the many ways the media distorts Medicare’s reports of fraud.
In The Slaughterhouse Mentality big business medicine gets it’s licks in against physicians for allegedly providing care patients need rather than what big business medicine deems unnecessary by the manufacturing model.
So it’s comforting to see other physicians such as Douglas Farrago, M.D. providing in Easy Scapegoats a very fine explanation of why physicians are such easy targets for big business medicine and Medicare to use as scapegoats. Dr. Farrago mentions a number of problems with the way physicians are treated, but one of the most problematical surrounds the totally nonsensical reimbursement policies of Medicare:
Hospital costs during 2010 in the U.S. constituted $814 billion or 31.4 percent of all healthcare expenditures. Furthermore, the cost of care will only continue to rise as we shift into a consolidated healthcare system and programs like Medicare allow higher payments for services performed in hospitals as opposed to independent private practices.
The public has been led by the media to believe that their physicians are running too many tests and driving up the cost of office visits. The same media should be exploring why the payment for a procedure done in their physician’s office could be as little as a third or half what the hospital would be reimbursed for the very same procedure.
Whenever the press splashes headlines about doctors being caught in Medicare fraud, the press should be required to run a concurrent story about hospital fraud. Because it exists. The press simply doesn’t report it with the same vigor. Perhaps because there’s a fear of losing advertising dollars. Perhaps because the legal departments of giant corporations are large and well paid. Perhaps because the complexity of large corporations themselves provides a fine suit of armor against discovery.
Simply put, physicians are responsible for a very small portion of the high cost of health care in this country. It’s high time the media started reporting on what really drives up the cost of health care in this country.