Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What if your doc retires along with you?

…Writing in the Wall Street Journal (Aug 21, 2006), Kelly Greene (great name) discusses the coming doctor shortage—at least the shortage of those willing to take the crumbs Medicare tosses.

…It takes serious clout and strategy to get a doctor to see you these days, according to Greene.

…Docs are not getting into practice and working for a lifetime. They are forming ever-larger group practices or going to work directly for hospitals.

…Patients have to wait weeks or months for an appt.

…If you are moving to another location for retirement, check out how many doctors accept Medicare. In some states, Medicare pays squat (it varies, you see).

…In 2004 and 2005, 73% of docs took Medicare and only 3% dumped it.

…According to the General Accountability Office, only 7% of Medicare patients have trouble finding a physician.

…The places tending to shut the doors to Medicare patients? California, Florida, Idaho, Virginia—places where people go to retire.

…You may need to hire a go-between to lobby a doctor to take you, Greene notes.

…One woman, though, a trained geratrician herself, spent three years trying to get care for her mother. “If I couldn’t get the system to work,” she said, “what chance does anyone have?”

…Some healthier people may want to get screenings at health fairs rather than go through the hassle of a doctor visit.

…A nurse practitioner may be less busy and accept Medicare.

…There are telephone consulting services, such as Teledoc Medical Services, that allow you to talk to a doc for $35 a throw, plus a yearly subscription rate.

…Some docs actually make housecalls and Medicare will pay for those.

…Your pharmacist can also answer questions.

…A call-in nurse can check on those with chronic conditions—or a patient can go online to answer daily questions.

…Some docs also are working with patients in groups and everyone seems to like that—even though they suffer from different things.

…If all else fails, Green writes, there is a happenin’ health care system in Costa Rica.

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