Under the guise of “reform,” President Obama is dismantling Medicare — dooming seniors to needless pain and disability and shortening their lives.
The stakes are high, because Medicare and the access it allows to medical innovations have transformed aging. Before Medicare, older people languished in nursing homes or wheelchairs with crippling illnesses. Now, seniors dodge that fate, thanks to hip and knee replacements, cataract operations, heart procedures — all paid for by Medicare.
Stunning findings just published in the American Journal of Public Health show that a man turning 65 can expect to live almost five years longer than his counterpart in 1970. Five years of extra life, and almost all of it in good health. What a priceless gift.
A gift Obama is snatching away. His so-called Medicare reforms make it harder for seniors to get joint replacements. His new payment rules shortchange doctors, discouraging them from accepting Medicare. New ER rules clobber seniors with bills for “observation care.” Under Obamacare, hospitals get bonuses for spending less per senior, despite having higher death rates and infection rates.
Expect the Medicare Trustees’ annual report, due out today, to ignore these damaging changes.
The latest assault is 962 pages of rules with the acronym MACRA dictating how doctors treat patients. The precious minutes with your doctor are wasted completing mandatory reports for the federal government, and your ailment gets short shrift.
Physicians are glued to computer screens, following prompts, and seldom making eye contact with their patients. Renowned New York cardiologist Jeffrey Borer is fed up: “I need to interact with my patients.”
“Doctors who want to provide individualized care” will have to “either opt out of Medicare or simply not comply,” explains Richard Amerling, past president of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons.
Obama’s rules are “far too complex and burdensome to be workable for most physicians,” warns John Halamka, a Harvard medical professor.
The new rules also make seeing Medicare patients a money loser. Annual pay increases for doctors are capped at a fraction of one percent – even though rents and other costs go up every year.
No wonder 9 in 10 solo practitioners admit they’ll avoid Medicare patients. Just when 10,000 new baby boomers are joining each day.
Obama’s rules spell trouble for seniors with cancer. Doctors administering chemotherapy are getting a pay cut and being prodded to choose the cheapest drug, regardless of which drug is best for their patient. Dr. Debra Patt warned Congress this will hinder access to drugs like the immunotherapy that subdued former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer.
Another Obama rule penalizes hospitals for doing hip and knee replacements on patients likely to need rehab after surgery. Hospitals will shun older patients with complex health conditions. Message to Grandma: Settle for the pain pill. Precisely the grim advice Obama offered seniors in 2009.
Obama claims his rules reward quality instead of quantity. Don’t believe it. Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake has one of the worst scores in New York State on patient outcomes, indicating its patients get more infections and die sooner from heart problems and pneumonia than at other hospitals. Yet Adirondack got a Medicare bonus because it’s a low spender. Same is true of Massena Memorial Hospital in Massena, New York, and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Redwood City, Vacaville and Antioch, California. Sickening.
During Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, the president accused Republicans of plotting to “end Medicare as we know it.” A pro-Obama ad depicted a Republican pushing Granny in a wheelchair off a cliff.
Who’s really pushing Granny off the cliff? Obama, with Hillary Clinton pushing along side.
Clinton proposes opening Medicare to people in their 50s. That would force seniors to compete with younger patients for resources – like in Britain and Canada, where seniors are labeled “bed blockers” and certain treatments are reserved for younger patients with more life ahead.
Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of “Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution.” To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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