Tuesday, March 23, 2010
What good is medical insurance if no doctor will accept me as a patient? My long-time family doctor is retiring, forcing me to find another doctor. I have no problem going to another doctor, but I am having problems finding a doctor that will accept me because my insurance is Medicare. The reason for this situation is that all family doctors in Anchorage have joined in a pact to not accept Medicare patients because Medicare does not adequately pay the physicians. Older patients require more of a doctor's time, but Medicare pays less for that time. There are about 26,000 residents 65 years and older who live in Anchorage and the nearby Mat-Su Valley, and the number is expected to top 36,000 by 2014. There is currently one clinic in Anchorage accepting new Medicare patients. When I called for an appointment, I was told that I would have to wait three to four weeks to see a doctor. I'm hoping that this long wait applies only to the first visit and not to every visit! There is however new hope on the horizon. A private group, headed by retired Anchorage cardiologist George Rhyneer, is offering a solution to the Medicare problem. This group wants to start a new medical clinic in Anchorage aimed at seniors on Medicare. This is a private sector solution to a government-caused problem. The medical group is seeking a one-time grant of $1.7 million from the Alaska State Legislature to fund the first few years while a patient base is established but expect that the clinic can pay its bills once the patient base is established. They plan to streamline the delivery of medical service by hiring an experienced internist or family practice doctor who could see as many as fifty patients per day and be assisted by nurses and other medical staff. The doctor would not be able to spend very much time with each patient, but patients like me, who do not have a doctor at all, will at least have a doctor to visit. The medical group expects operating costs to be lower because it would accept only Medicare patients. Billing would be more efficient because medical records would be electronic and would deal with only one payer (Medicare). The government created my health insurance nightmare. I once enjoyed wonderful health insurance and could get medical help anywhere in the United States. I was forced to go on Medicare at age 65, and now I can't get medical help in my own hometown. I am grateful that I am currently healthy, but I worry about what will happen if I become ill. This is why I say, get the government out of insurance and medical service and let private industry solve the government-caused problems!