One would think that a physician who earns his living billing patients would be conversant with the prices of his services.
For decades, physicians have given away their services for free to patients who could not afford to pay. However, today’s health care market makes this very difficult. Medicare and Medicaid, which now cover 35 percent of health care in America,often pay physicians less than it costs them to provide their services. Commercial insurance companies’ payment rates, computed largely as a percentage of Medicare, have followed the government-run programs into the basement. The nation’s 50 million uninsured, including 6.2 million Texans, can rarely pay the costs of their health care. The squeeze leaves many physicians struggling to keep their practices open, let alone provide charity care. State and federal leaders must realize that cutting physicians’ payments is not an effective tool for controlling health care costs, and often exacerbates the cost of care. They also must realize that without physicians, no health care delivery system can be effective.