Today, my colleague, an orthopedic surgeon, refused to perform surgery on a Medicare patient, because of the exceeding low reimbursement. The 67-year-old woman had severe carpal tunnel syndrome and tried medication, physical therapy and wearing a wrist brace, but she continues to suffer.
The Medicare fee schedule pays $260 for the surgery, which includes 60 days of care after an operation. The normal fee for this procedure is $1,500. In additon, the laws that exist will soon impose a reduction in the fees paid to doctors by more than 20 percent, lowering the payment for this surgery to around $200.
To become a surgeon, one must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and then another four years of residency training. The average debt incurred by a graduating doctor is over $200,000. The malpractice insurance for the average orthopedist in New York is over $100,000. You do the math.
Every time I call a plumber, electrician, or for that matter any repairman, the cost usually exceeds $300 for a minor repair. Obviously it does not pay to become a doctor.
Presently, more and more doctors are opting out of the Medicare program. Going forward, less-qualified students will enter the medical profession. Obamacare makes the situation worse by doing nothing about malpractice reform.
Harvey Manes, M.D.