Mind and Body

Don’t Worry America, Your Doctor Will Be There for You

Doctors who treat Medicare patients are facing payment cuts upwards of 27 percent starting in 2012 unless Congress can come up with a plan to “patch” the calculation currently used for determining the value of medical services.

It’s the latest impending disaster to come to light because of the so-called Super Committee's inability to come up with deficit reduction plan. Analysts warn that without the temporary boost in payments, doctors may start turning away new Medicare patients, and that the disabled and elderly relying on those government benefits could begin to see limited choices when it comes to their health care.

But I’m here to tell you: Don’t worry America, your doctor will not abandon you.

I say this because as a doctor, I believe whole-heartedly that my fellow physicians, nurses and any health care professional for that matter, has chosen to work in the medical field because they are truly committed to patient care.

Now, that doesn’t mean that doctors haven’t been paying the price of a mismanaged government that attempts to control costs by creating new rules, while simultaneously bogging down the system with so much bureaucratic red tape that it’s been rendered completely broken.

We can’t cut spending by trying to limit the number of doctors in practice, or by putting every medical scenario into a numerical code.

Most doctors today are independent physicians with small practices – they certainly don’t have powerful lobbying forces behind them to let them be heard on Capitol Hill. And while many lawmakers believe doctors should share the burden of an over-extended system by putting a cap on reimbursement, this would actually make many practices disappear.

I would say that now, more than ever, this is the time America needs doctors to continue to practice with the same amount of enthusiasm they had when they first took their oath to “do no harm.”

Our population is growing, and medical advances are extending the American life span past what we ever thought possible. And no matter how broken the system, our government has instituted a policy of health care for all – so we need young men and women to enter the field of medicine.

The answer has never been to socialize medicine, or to ration health care services. I know that health care costs are the third rail of this economy, but we can’t keep straddling that third rail. What we need to do is to build a better train – one where doctors and patients don’t become numbers or statistics, but real people with real problems.

But no matter what the outcome, I have faith that doctors will continue to do the right thing.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.