Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doctors Going South

Has the issue of health care really gone too far?  A critical element for enabling all of these reforms to provide real relief and to help all Americans get access to better and more affordable health care is curbing excessive litigation.  

Most of us are feeling the effects of the down spiraling economy.  We see it every where, in the news, on the internet.  More importantly, we feel it in our wallet.  Have you ever stop and wonder about how those who are in the professional field of health care such as doctors, dentists are feeling?  Many have had to leave their profession doing something else other than what they started out doing in the beginning.  

We now face another litigation crisis that has made insurance premiums unaffordable or even unavailable for many doctors, through no fault of their own.  This is making it more difficult for many Americans to find care and threatening access for many more.   Nevada is facing unprecedented problems in assuring quick access to urgently needed care.  The University of Nevada Medical Center closed its trauma center in Las Vegas for ten days last year.  Its surgeons had quit because they could no longer afford malpractice insurance.  Their premiums had increased sharply, some from $40,000 to $200,000.  The trauma center was able to re-open only because some of the surgeons agreed to become county government employees for a limited time, which capped their liability for non-economic damages if they were sued. 

Overall, more than 10% of all doctors in Las Vegas are expected to retire or relocate their practices by mid year.  There was a female doctor, age 41 who closed her decade-old obstetrics and gynecology practice in Las Vegas because her insurance premium jumped from $40,000 to $150,000 a year.   Other states are facing the same problem.  A doctor in a small town in North Carolina decided to take early retirement when his premiums went through the roof from $7,500 to $38,000 per year.  His partner, unable to afford the practice expenses by himself may now be forced to close the practice and work at a teaching hospital.  

Many physicians in Ohio saw their malpractice premiums triple in 2001, and some are leaving their practice as a result.  An Akron Urologist decided to retire.  Had this Urologist continued to practice, he would have spent seven months of his yearly income to cover the $85,000 premium. In New Jersey, 65% of the hospitals report that physicians are leaving because of increased premiums  (over 250% over the last three years). 

Litigation system does not accurately judge whether an error was committed in the course of medical care, physicians adjust their behavior to avoid being sued.  A recent survey of physicians revealed that one-third shied away from going into a particular specialty because they feared it would subject them to greater liability exposure. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Future of Health Care

Most of us that have jobs would normally have some kind of health care coverage right?  You would think so especially those who have large families.  What about those who don't?  As health cost increase, employers that offer health coverage are finding it harder to compete with companies in countries that have universal coverage and with non-union employers here in America that don't offer benefits.  

Here is something you should know.  Premium costs are rising three times faster than wages or inflation.  The average premium for family health insurance coverage today is more than $12,000 and its expected to double by 2016 unless we do something.  Are you aware that every 30 seconds, someone files for medical bankruptcy?  As costs rise, more people are uninsured.  With the number of corporations large and small finding it more difficult to stay afloat,  the effect of the economy has proven to be disastrous. Unemployment is at it's highest in the last 14 to 17 years.  

Today, 47 million people living in our country have no health coverage.  If you think that's shocking, think about 8.7 million children and these numbers are going up.  In the next four years, if we don't change things, 56 million of us will be uninsured.  Retirees especially are losing employer sponsored health care as well.  Only half the employers who provided retiree health coverage in 2000 are still providing it today.  There has been 50% drop in 7 years.  The United States spends much more on health care than other countries.  U.S. health care spending totaled 2 trillion in 2005, representing 16% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).  Health care spending accounted for 11.6% of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7% in Germany, 9.8% in Canada and 11.1% in France.  (Kaiser Family Foundation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).   

Do you know health care costs contributes to an estimated 25% of housing problems.  Unless there is a health care system in place that is proven to be effective, than we must be careful about the choices we make when choosing a health care plan that would be beneficial to you and your family.