When it comes to pay cuts, it’s time to look beyond physicians

Well, it’s that time of year again. Fall is near, and ‘tis this season for more pay cuts from CMS and insurance companies. Are there any other health-related professions that receive across the board pay cuts? I know of none.

The U.S. health care mega-complex includes not only physicians, but hospital administrators, legions of hospital vice-presidents, insurance company executives, elected politicians, federal employees at CMS, hospital employees, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmaceutical executives, nurses and so on. My intentions are not to offend anyone else listed above. So why are we targeted?

The salaries of gastroenterologists cannot be used as a logical argument, as our salaries are dwarfed by some the occupations listed above. One also has to consider the number of hours worked per week, and the need to respond to emergencies at night, and on weekends. Are we then targeted because we as a group have refused to stand up for our patients and our profession?

Please listen and pay attention. The time has come for each of us to carefully evaluate all proposed fee schedules before they become permanent. Health care premiums for our staffs continue to rise. Our utility costs have not decreased. Medical supply and drug costs increase every year. I fear that any further pay cuts will lead to further job dissatisfaction, bitterness, and more physician retirements. Recruitment of young gastroenterologists to my state of Alabama would become even more difficult. All of these factors result in a decrease in patient access to care, at a time when colon cancer is the number 2 cause of cancer death in America.

In conclusion, we can no longer afford to roll over and “play dead.” All of us need to be active in verbalizing our concerns to the policymakers. The time for action is upon us. We have to take a stand for our patients, our nurses and support staff, and our specialty.

J. DeWayne Tooson is a gastroenterologist.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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