The Biden administration announced it would again reduce payments to Medicare physicians, this time by 8.42 percent. According to a recent survey, 92 percent of medical group practices report that Medicare payments do not cover the cost of providing care.
The federal government can stay in business when it takes in less revenue than it expends. Why? Because it can print money and no one else can. To stay in business, physicians will have to reject Medicare patients; access will decrease once again. And with Democrats pushing legislation like the wrongly named Inflation Reduction Act, things will only get worse.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for non-medical, bureaucratic spending. Before the ACA, the average maximum wait time to see a primary care doctor was an unacceptable 99 days. After Obamacare was implemented with its cuts to physician payments, wait times increased to a medically unconscionable 122 days. Patients have to wait four months to find out if belly pain is gas, an ulcer, or cancer. With the latest round of cuts, the wait times could stretch from months to years.
In hearings prior to the passage of the ACA, Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation warned Congress, “You can’t get more of something by paying less for it.” Democrats disregarded this obvious economic truism in 2010 and are doing so again in 2022.
If further cuts are made to Medicare in the pursuit of spending “health care” dollars elsewhere, this will literally cause death by preventing Medicare patients from getting access to care. Accountants for the Medicare Trust have reported the trust will be insolvent by 2026, less than four years hence. At that time, Medicare will run out of money, there will be no accepting physicians, and seniors will die from lack of hospital care.
Death-by-queueing refers to patients dying waiting in line for technically possible but unavailable life-saving care. Such avoidable deaths have been documented in Medicaid programs as well as government-supported Tricare for veterans. Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died from a dental cavity because no pediatric dentists in his area would accept the low Medicaid rates. In Illinois, 752 Medicaid enrollees died waiting for life-saving care that never came. An internal VA audit reported that “47,000 veterans may have died” waiting in line for care. The bottom line is that as the government increases its spending on expensive insurance policies, the public’s access to care decreases.
The reality of “can’t get more by paying less” is ignored by Biden’s latest health care scam built into the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill allows Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Washington will simply dictate drug prices similar to how a 4-year-old negotiates with a tyrannosaurus rex.
History shows what invariably happens when prices are pre-determined: shortages occur of current drugs, and the development of new drugs halts. However, despite this, market forces work even when government distorts the market. When prices are fixed by the government rather than market variables and determined by millions of consumer choices, suppliers must react or go out of business. When revenue goes down by fiat, suppliers — manufacturers or service providers — compensate by cutting their costs by reducing quality, lowering production, or both.
Biden’s “negotiated” Medicare prices will cause shortages of desperately needed drugs, and worse, the development of new medicines will cease.
Federal price fixing in health care is neither new nor limited to drugs. The government has been pre-determining payments to physicians for decades. Washington decrees what Medicare and Medicaid programs pay for physician services, and physicians can take it or leave it. More are leaving it. One-third of U.S. doctors already refuse to accept new Medicaid patients. The death-by-queueing noted previously is directly due to a shortage of physicians, and the shortage is largely due to low payment rates along with bureaucratic burdens.
As a pediatric cardiologist, I have done several complex life-saving catheterization procedures on babies with congenital heart defects. When these devices are implanted, these bills can range from $1,500 to as much as $9,000. Medicaid will pay me $385 for every single one.
The bottom line is that when Democrats divert health care funds or fix prices for medical goods and services, American patients suffer.