- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Lambro’s Op-Ed column “Public option protrusions” (Opinion, Thursday) partially covers the fiscal and political problems facing the proposed expansion of Medicare. Medicare has been operating from deficits since last year, and it is insolvent. The politicians and pundits say it is going broke but will be solvent for a few more years because of the (nonexistent) Medicare trust fund.

Medicare has served the elderly population well for many years, but it is partially responsible for many physicians refusing to take new or any Medicare patients because of the low and slow payments and heavy paperwork burden. More and more physicians are giving up their current practices and going to “concierge medicine,” in which they limit their practice to a lower number of patients who pay a substantial annual retainer fee. It is extremely difficult to find a physician or group of physicians who will accept Medicare patients. Some physicians will not accept Medicare patients or process medical insurance forms. Our current overall health care system is a house of cards that will collapse if pushed much further.

The current Medicare system is not self-sufficient, and its expansion will only exacerbate the problems. A single-payment system will be devastating. Medicare and medical insurance companies have negotiated low fees for current services. Any further downward negotiations will drive more health care providers and hospitals out of business.

Overall, our current health care programs are working fairly well. Medicare needs to be propped up financially and managed efficiently to cut down the waste, fraud and abuse - which our dysfunctional Congress claims has been ongoing for years but cannot be addressed unless we pass a new health care bill. The absurd liability-insurance demands on health providers must be limited to cover actual damages, not frivolous settlements.

One proposal for medical coverage for the uninsured and indigent is to take some of the stimulus money and open up government health clinics in needy areas. These clinics could be staffed by retired or dropped-out physicians, technicians and nurses who would be working at a government pay scale, have regular hours and be protected from the burden of liability-insurance requirements. This would be rewarding for both the patients and health care providers.

JOHN T. MCVICKAR

Vienna, Va.

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