Arizona doctor goes Galt

Last month, a urologist in Florida told patients that he’d prefer ObamaCare supporters go elsewhere for treatment.  Today, a dermatologist in Arizona warns that he’ll be elsewhere if ObamaCare comes fully into law.  Joseph Scherzer says the penalties for dealing with Medicare patients, along with more top-down government control of health care, will drive him to close his doors:

While it may be years before most Americans feel the impact of President Obama’s health-care bill, a few patients in Scottsdale, Ariz., got a small taste of life under Obamacare last week when they arrived at their Dermatologist’s office only to see a sign with the following taped to the front door:

“If you voted for Obamacare, be aware these doors will close before it goes into effect.” The note is signed Joseph M. Scherzer M.D. and includes the following addendum: “****Unless Congress or the Courts repeal the BILL.”

Scherzer, who attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has been a practicing Dermatologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 1976. Reached yesterday at his office, Dr. Scherzer, 63, said he plans to stop practicing before 2014 when the bill’s full impact will be felt because he refuses to deal with the headache of increased government involvement in health care. …

Scherzer said the bill’s emphasis on punitive measures for physicians not following government-prescribed treatment methods under Medicare would increase his anxiety level to the point he would no longer be able to practice medicine. The maximum fine was previously $10,000; under the bill it will now be capped at $50,000. Scherzer said the fine system makes seeing a Medicare patients a difficult and stressful exercise.

“Doctors have actually committed suicide over these things. There’s no insurance to cover it,” Scherzer said, calling the fine system “tremendously complicated and Frankensteinian.” “It’s absolutely impossible to be certain you’ve complied. I feel like when I see a Medicare patient I have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.”

Frankenstein isn’t a bad analogy for ObamaCare.  Its piecemeal approach to overhauling health care has already had some frightening and unintended consequences, the most humorous and ironic of which was stripping Congress of its health insurance.  The hidden tax for the middle class, which will cost people in the middle $3.9 billion in 2019 alone, is another.

Scherzer is near the normal retirement age anyway, but many specialists continue working in their practices past that time.  What matters here are the incentives and disincentives in play.  If Congress quintupled the penalty cap that the HHS Department can levy on Medicare issues, that provides a disincentive for providers to accept Medicare patients altogether.  In fact, the arbitrary nature of these fines probably accounts for at least some of the existing difficulties that Medicare patients have in finding providers, which is why 25% of Medicare patients purchase Medicare Advantage plans in order to get wider access to providers.

Except, of course, that ObamaCare makes deep cuts in the Medicare Advantage plans to pay for Medicaid expansion.  Oopsie!

Under these circumstances, as well as other disincentives to providers in ObamaCare, we can expect to see large number of doctors in all fields following Scherzer’s example, primarily the most experienced who see early retirement as a much better option than dealing with Uncle Obama’s medical-care directives.  What will that leave?  A less experienced and smaller cadre of providers with increased wait times and miles of red tape for everyone.  Scherzer may be one of the lucky ones, at least until he gets sick himself.

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