Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Show Us The Money!

Trying To Save By Increasing Doctors' Fees explores the not-so-novel idea paying doctors more to, get this, actually spend time with their patients:
Cutting health costs by paying doctors more?

That is the premise of experiments under way by federal and state government agencies and many insurers around the country. The idea is that by paying family physicians, internists and pediatricians to devote more time and attention to their patients, insurers and patients can save thousands of dollars downstream on unnecessary tests, visits to expensive specialists and avoidable trips to the hospital.

Nationally, Medicare and commercial insurers pay an average of only about $60 a visit to the office of a primary-care doctor and rarely if ever pay for telephone or e-mail consultations. Many health policy experts say the payments are not enough to let the doctors spend more than a few minutes with each patient.
Gee, ya think? I don't know why people in the healthcare industry are so slow to realize that physicians act on incentives just like anyone else in any other profession. If you are still unsure, just look at the numbers:
Advocates of the approach hope it will attract more doctors to primary care. Last year only 7 percent of medical school graduates chose family practice, a field with a median income of $150,000, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. That compares with $406,000 for gastroenterologists and $433,00 for cardiac surgeons, as measured by the Medical Group Management Association.
The American Medical Association said that in its latest count, in 2006, there were slightly more than 251,000 practicing family physicians, general, practitioners, and internists in this country, compared with nearly 472,000 specialists.
The shortage of primary care physicians is not news. Finally, it seems the powers that be are starting to take notice. Heh, still though, it ain't enough to convince me not to go into radiology... better luck with the med students 10 years down the road.

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