Health care reform is the headline-maker these days, and I give my take in a couple of recent articles.
First, Congressional Quarterly wonders if there are enough primary care doctors for every patient newly insured under a universal coverage plan (a familiar take, I must say). Anyways, here’s my contribution to the piece:
The biggest problem is that primary care physicians are paid far less for their services than are specialists, although they might have the same amount of medical school debt to pay off. And lawmakers will be hard-pressed to fix that problem without setting off a lobbying war between physicians that could derail the overall plan.
In the few minutes that a specialist might spend performing a medical procedure during an office visit, “that procedure will get paid five to eight times as much as I get paid to spend those 15 minutes talking to a patient about hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol,” said Kevin Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, N.H., who writes a blog about his experiences.
Next, in WORLD Magazine, I reiterate the point, noting that improving primary care physician access needs to go hand in hand with universal coverage, which is an issue conspicuously lacking in the debate:
Many at the White House health-care summit touted developments in Massachusetts, where a universal coverage law began in 2006. But Kevin Pho, a primary care physician from southern New Hampshire who runs a medical blog, says the state’s health-care system has been bombarded with nearly half a million new patients: The wait time for a new patient to see a primary care doctor averaged 50 days, and those who can’t wait often resort to emergency room visits””one of the costliest forms of health care. “It’s a difficult pill to swallow,” reasons Pho. “Health insurance without health-care access is basically useless.”