Thursday, April 5, 2012

'Obamacare' easy target of scorn in doctors' offices

I think my sister’s doctor is blowing smoke.

My 71-year-old Medicare-covered sister needed a certain medical procedure recently that would reveal whether she was on the mend or not.

Her doctor was ready to order the procedure but came back with something like this: “Under Obamacare, I can’t order that procedure in situations like yours.”

So, following her doctor’s lead my sister then informs me that it’s President Barack Obama’s fault that she was denied this particular procedure and asks me to guess the candidate who’s not getting her vote.


OK, she wasn’t going to vote for Obama anyway, but that’s beside the point, which is that some doctors are doing their part to paint the president as the grim reaper. In the aftermath of my conversation with my sister, I spent considerable time trying to find evidence that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 actually has had an impact on specific Medicare treatment guidelines. I couldn’t find any.

I related my sister’s story to a doctor I know very well and whose practice includes patients covered by Medicare. He said it sounded as though my sister’s doctor didn’t want to jump through the current Medicare hoops to get the procedure done. Those are hoops that have been in place since – I don’t know – Ronald Reagan?

And therein lies the problem with Medicare.

Current Medicare guidelines are overwhelming and doctors aren’t covering their costs when Medicare reimburses. And the fear is that that problem will only get worse. Given the choice, most doctors and hospitals would choose treating someone with traditional, comprehensive medical insurance coverage over someone covered by Medicare and its supplements.

The Affordable Care Act, which is so wide ranging and has so many unknowns attached to it, scares the heck out of physicians (and other health care providers) because it potentially could further reduce their operating margins.

If you want some credible sources – and I won’t promise you’ll be any smarter after immersing yourself in the details – check out (the government’s website dedicated to the Affordable Care Act); (New England Journal of Medicine; search “Affordable Care Act”); and WebMD (search “Affordable Care Act”).

In light of all this, I hope the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court do become experts on the law and can consider today’s challenge of caring for the health needs of 300 million people with the founding fathers’ intention of how deeply the federal government should touch our lives.

The Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – is now on trial. We’ll see…

For what it’s worth, I declare Republican Josh Mandel to be an arrogant twit. Mandel, Ohio’s treasurer, is running against Sherrod Brown, who’s making a bid for re-election as U.S. senator.

Mandel has maintained that Brown is responsible for Ohio losing jobs to China. PolitiFact Ohio found no evidence to support that claim and gave Mandel a “pants on fire” rating.

When asked for examples by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mandel couldn’t come up with any.

“If that’s the level of specificity you’re looking for, you’re the reporters – you go do the grunt work,” he said. “Any reporter who doesn’t believe Sherrod Brown is responsible for jobs going to China is simply out of touch.”

Mandel has indicated he will continue to make the claim regardless of, well, the truth. And that forces me to honor him with my “arrogant twit” award.

OK, I just came up with this award, but I think it’s a good one and I plan on giving it periodically during this crazy election year. Careful, Newt.

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