Obama’s Real Doc Fix
posted at 10:23 am on June 2, 2010 by Laura
Conservatives were outraged by the chicanery of separating physician payment increases from the health care reform (that’s three lies for the price of one) bill Congress recently rammed through. The “doc fix” was separate legislation so that physician payments could be increased without adding to the total cost of the main bill, so that Democrats could dishonestly claim the bill reduced the deficit. Now, however, we are seeing the real “doc fix.”
Some Idaho orthopedists grew weary of the low reimbursement rates the government gave them for caring for worker’s comp patients. So they got together and agreed not to treat those patients anymore. They hoped that their boycott would force the Idaho Industrial Commission to increase the fee schedule – their payments. While they were at it, they decided to stop working with Blue Cross of Idaho – also a notorious underpayer – until a better deal could be negotiated. Unions behave this way all the time, and it’s often very effective.
In a similar case in Colorado last February, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and charged the doctors with price-fixing.
The FTC charged Roaring Fork Valley Physicians I.P.A., Inc., which represents about 80 percent of the doctors in Garfield County, Colorado, with violating the FTC Act by orchestrating agreements among its members to set higher prices for medical services and to refuse to deal with insurers that did not meet its demands for higher rates.
Those doctors lost, and if they want to continue to work as physicians, they will do so at the prices set by the government.
Now the Obama administration has stepped it up a notch. The FTC only deals with civil complaints. In order to deal with the Idaho orthopedists, Obama sent in Eric Holder and the Justice Department, which is at liberty to file criminal charges. You see, those Idaho orthopedists collectively agreeing that they had enough and weren’t going to take it anymore, were actually engaged in two antitrust conspiracies.
… the Justice Department has unambiguously stated that refusal to accept government price controls is a form of illegal “price fixing.”
The FTC has hinted at this when it’s said physicians must accept Medicare-based reimbursement schedules from insurance companies. But the DOJ has gone the final step and said, “Government prices are market prices,” in the form of the Idaho Industrial Commission’s fee schedule.
The Sherman Act, which is being used here against physicians, exempts trade unions. Obama may have one boot on BP’s neck, but the other seems pretty firmly planted on that of America’s doctors.
h/t to Dr. Wes, who writes,
Given the 21% cut to Medicare payments that occurred today (but CMS is ‘holding claims’ for ten days to allow for another stop-gap measure to be implemented), ask yourself two questions: (1) “Where was the AMA?” and (2) Are you ready to be a government employee?”
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