Originally published January 11 2012
Physicians going broke because the health care system doesn't work
by Tara Green
(NaturalNews) In the US, most people, upon hearing that someone is a physician assume that person has a higher than average income. However, a recent article on the CNN Money website drew attention to a new trend -- doctors declaring bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy and practice closuresThe CNN article quotes Marc Lion, CEO of Lion & Company CPAs, LLC, which advises independent doctor practices about their finances, as saying "A lot of independent practices are starting to see serious financial issues." Physicians apparently blame factors such as rising business and drug costs, as well as decreasing Medicare reimbursements as contributing to the demise of many small private practices. Business experts on the other hand point to a lack of business management skills on the part of many physicians. The trend encompasses not only general practitioners but specialists including oncologists and cardiologists.
Physicians whose private practices are barely staying afloat in the current economy look forward with dread to the changes in the federal budget which could cut Medicare physicians pay by 27.4%. Even top-rated doctors, some of whom have sacrificed a personal salary in order to pay their staff members and keep their practices open, are contemplating personal bankruptcy and/or leaving medicine.
Observing that a wave of physician bankruptcies could leave many communities "without a vital health resource," the CNN article also briefly touches on at least one of the factors which have contributed to this state of affairs. "In oncology, doctors were allowed to profit from drug sales. So doctors would buy expensive cancer drugs at bulk prices from drug makers and then sell them at much higher prices to their patients." One physician quoted in the article stated: "I grew up in that system. I was spending $1.5 million a month on buying treatment drugs." Revised Medicare guidelines mean that physicians are now reimbursed for less than half the cost of those cancer drugs.
Broke docs a symptom of a broken systemWhat the CNN article does not state is that the entire mainstream health care system has been built on an unsustainable model of inflated drug prices, expensive diagnostic equipment and the con game run by most health insurance companies. Whereas those companies formerly ran their shell game primarily on health consumers, sharing the profits with doctors, now physicians too are finding no pea beneath the shuffled shells.
Perhaps if physicians received less training in prescribing drugs and more training in preventing disease, there would be a larger number of successful small practices. Currently, people enter the field of medicine expecting to go through a lengthy and expensive education process and then pay off any debts for that schooling by allying themselves with insurance companies, Big Pharma and medical device-makers.
On the other hand, people in modalities of healing referred to as "alternative" only sometimes receive insurance reimbursements. They are more likely to prescribe herbal remedies than pharmaceutical drugs. They learn to detect patient health problems through observation and patient contact rather than through diagnostic equipment which is expensive to purchase, as well as, invasive and toxic to the patient. They must rely on word-of-mouth from satisfied patients who have actually experienced some measure of healing in order to build their practices in acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic and other forms of natural healing.
Perhaps physicians can learn from people in these alternative health fields. There are integrative medicine clinics and even integrative medicine learning programs at some medical schools. But too often these programs position modern allopathic medicine as the norm or standard.
Insurance companies, for instance, will often only pay for "alternative" care if a patient receives a referral from someone who can put MD after their name. Medical research on herbal remedies often focuses on proving or disproving their efficacy according to scientific norms which do not take into account the holistic model of health.
Although we call all forms of healing other than modern allopathic medicine "alternative," the truth is that our mainstream system of medicine is younger than other health traditions. Since the American Medical Association was founded in 1847, it has waged a very successful PR campaign to position its members as the ultimate experts on health. Perhaps it is time for that organization to admit it does not have ownership of human health, and to reform the profession in order to save it.
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