Tags: Barack Obama | Medicare

Let Market Determine Medicare Costs

Thursday, 13 November 2014 05:16 PM Current | Bio | Archive

My wife is flying home today because she’s worried about her mother’s health.
Josephine has been losing weight and has trouble with her balance. I’m wondering if maybe she got a Netflix subscription and has been binging on "Breaking Bad" episodes.

I told my wife to call a physician and get her scheduled for a meth addiction test, and while she’s at it take a look at PCP and cocaine. I know there’s a smaller chance of a woman over 80 being addicted to meth than there is of Obama’s no Ebola quarantine policy working — but why take the chance? Besides, asking for the test will quadruple her chances of finding a doctor that takes Medicare patients.

I know you’re asking what addictive drug tests for seniors have to do with Medicare?

Washington, D.C. experts know the program costs too much, but rather than let the market set the prices, they establish prices arbitrarily in an effort to make part of the Medicare program smaller. UTSanDiego.com found Dr. Doug Moir, a California cardiologist, suffering the consequences. In 2012 the non–Medicare rate for a Doppler echocardiogram was $86.64, but he received only $52.70 from the feds for the same work.

I don’t know about you, but where I live you wouldn’t expect to get your garbage disposal cleaned out for $52.70, much less your arteries. The result of such cost pressure is that more doctors are refusing to see Medicare patients and the older doctors who still have a Medicare practice are retiring to avoid the paperwork and revenue cuts.

Which brings us to drug tests. Many doctors are now relying on tests to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of seeing Medicare patients. The Wall Street Journal reports Medicare wizards decided doctors were doing too many urine tests, so they cut the payment for the standard test.

In response doctors began testing grandmothers for Vicodin, PCP, and cocaine addiction.
The Wall Street Journal charts the growth in billing for these tests and it’s startling.

In 2007 Vicodin testing totaled $45,117.00. In 2012, $16 million. PCP and angel dust bills in ’07 were $1.6 million. In 2012, $14 million. Cocaine testing was $1.8 million in ’07. In 2012, it was $19.7 million.

The Journal concludes, “Medicare’s spending on 22 high-tech tests for drugs of abuse hit $445 million in 2012, up 1,423 percent in five years.”

Frankly after following seniors in traffic I wouldn’t be opposed to letting them tweak and drive, but Sue Brown, who directs a testing lab in Georgia, told the Journal that in 25 years she’s never seen anyone over 65 test positive for angel dust. The same goes for ecstasy and meth, because addicts usually Darwin out before they reach the age of 50, much less Medicare eligibility.

But North Carolina Dr. Robert Wadley, in an exquisite bit of bureaucrat ju–jitsu, says he does the same drug “tests on all patients specimens to avoid discriminating based on age.” That’s why I’m convinced if Josephine volunteers for the tests she’ll go to the head of the line.

Until recently, Dr. Wadley’s drug testing company charged physicians a flat fee for testing as many as three dozen separate drugs. In turn the doctors could bill Medicare for each test individually, greatly increasing the total test revenue.

In Wadley’s office, drug testing generated 82 percent of his Medicare billing in 2012. While a Massachusetts pain specialist billed $2.8 million for tests.

Are these doctors gaming the system? Certainly. The solution isn’t more control by more bureaucrats randomly setting prices. It’s genuine market reform. Give Medicare patients a choice. They can stay with the current system and continue tinkling in the cup with the work–release crowd, or they can take a federal voucher and buy their own Medicare policy.

Letting insurance companies compete across state lines for senior business will employ the power of the market. Insurers will have to offer attractive coverage to seniors while doing their own internal cost control to make sure the policy shows a profit. A smaller, less costly Medicare voucher system will provide better care for seniors at lower cost to taxpayers.

Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports —
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The solution isn’t more control by more bureaucrats randomly setting prices. It’s genuine market reform. Give Medicare patients a choice.
Barack Obama, Medicare
Thursday, 13 November 2014 05:16 PM
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