Small Business: U.S. doctors going broke – Jan. 5, 2012

11 Jan

Small Business: Doctors going broke – Jan. 5, 2012.

A sad story from the USA about the financial pressured on Private Practice in a managed healthcare economy with fee-for-service consultations.

It is interesting to observe from across the pond here in UK the tough times doctors face in USA when (a) they can buy expensive drugs in bulk, then charge the patient/insurer a premium, and (b)US government has blocked plans to reduce Medicare reimbursements many times over last decade while economy has been contracting.

Here in UK, the first scenario cannot happen, at least directly.  The nearest thing to the profit from buying drugs in bulk  and getting a profit from dispensing is by dispensing (rural) general practices.

The second issue of contracting doctors pay has not met any practical resistance in UK.  GP practice did increase a lot in 2004 with the new contract for General Medical Services; since then GP Partners’ profits have fallen in real terms, particularly with National agreement to cap increases to no more than 1.5%, while recommending staff get at least 3% pay rise which is paid for from Practice income!

There is nothing comforting from the article about the dire financial position of many U.S. doctors.  Medical professionals are among the most valuable members of a community.  Their presence ensures timely treatment of illness (well not aesthetic surgeons!).  Regulations designed to protect patients (and insurers’ profits) are squeezing the life out of many practices which will result in consolidation.  Rural folks will be most at risk from this.

It is timely to be reminded of the dangers of private medicine.  The medical industrial complex should not be allowed to hijack the public NHS otherwise in a few decades from now, I fear, British doctors will be the subject of a similar story.

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Jim McManus blogs on public health, ethics, books, theology and more