TAFP members voice opinions on national
health care reform on Austin NPR station
Four family physicians were featured on KUT, the Austin branch of National Public Radio, as part of their series on national health care. The physicians gave their perspectives on the proposed legislation and how it would affect their practices.
KUT’s Nathan Bernier reported from each physician’s practice. He started with Douglas Curran, M.D., of Lakeland Medial Associates in Athens, a TAFP past president who spoke about his payer mix and how he must limit the patients he sees due to low Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates and insurance company hassles. He calculated that each patient visit costs about $40. Private insurance pays an average of $80, Medicare pays $40 and Medicaid pays about $30.
“The payment you get from Medicaid is inadequate to cover the expenses of your practice, so you have to limit the amount of that you see,” Curran said in the broadcast. “Certainly people with no resources, if you see too many of those, you can’t pay your bills. So you have to make enough money to pay your employees and keep the lights on, and if you’re not doing that then you have to shut her down. Then I’m not doing anybody any good.”
Bernier’s visit to Guadalupe Zamora, M.D., a private-practice physician in East Austin, shed light on the shortage of family physicians in the area and the decreasing number of medical students choosing primary care. He also expressed concern for the rising costs of health care. He recommended implementing federal tort reform to lower doctors’ malpractice insurance premiums and to reduce costs to patients.
Hector Trevino, M.D., a private-practice physician in Eagle Pass, has a payer mix that is 30 percent private insurance, 30 percent Medicare, 30 percent Medicaid and 10 percent uninsured. He speaks about administrative hassles that keep him from being paid and sometimes keep him from providing the care that he recommends.
Finally, William Jones, M.D., runs a concierge medicine practice in Austin that allows him to circumvent insurance companies and see patients who pay an annual fee based on their age. In return, his 600 patients may visit him as many times as they want during that year and have access to his cell and home phone numbers. Bernier reports that Jones would see little or no effect on his practice should a health care overhaul pass unless the concierge model becomes more popular among primary care physicians and federal regulators decide to step in.
Listen to all of the TAFP members involved in KUT’s series on national health reform on the KUT website, www.kut.org.