The causes of our health care system’s meltdown are many and they’re complex.
Are there too few doctors? Are health insurance companies ineffective? Are there too many people without health insurance? Are the drugs too expensive? Are there too many demands on hospitals’ staff? Are government regulations too onerous? All of the above?
It’s a perfect storm of problems.
A reader contends that anesthesiologists are working 70 to 80 hours a week because of Obamacare. It’s true that hospital-based specialists often work long hours because of health insurer contracts and emergency room responsibilities.
For example, if you are contracting to provide a specialty service like anesthesiology, you are required to meet hospital obligations. These obligations are spelled out in contracts and government regulations hospitals must comply with for accreditation.
Doctors are not on shifts. They must respond whenever they are called. Surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, cardiologists, anesthesiologists cannot escape hospital requirements. Hospitals can drop physicians not meeting those requirements. Worse than that, physicians can face serious sanctions if they fail to respond to patient medical needs.
Certain rare physician specialties have refused hospital call and have limited their practices. It is more about a sane workload than liability. However, liability cannot be dismissed as added pressure to the doctor’s workday.
The reader who complained that anesthesiologists work too many hours addressed one the serious flaws in health care today. Medical care is unfair to patients and unfair to doctors.
Our nation has 50 million uninsured people. That grim number alone describes a dysfunctional system. In Florida 30 percent of the population under 65 has no health insurance — 4.5 million people.
The nation’s health-care system broke down decades ago as the number of uninsured Americans rose. President Bill Clinton faced 33 million uninsured.
Each year political conflict thwarts health-care solutions and the problem expands. Citizens feel the effects in costs of care and skyrocketing insurance rates. Health-care workers are overburdened, especially doctors.
Some long-term solutions are graduating more medical students to meet growing demand, expanding community health centers, allowing the expansion of practice parameters for physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, opticians, pharmacists and psychologists.
The goal should be universal health-care coverage. Most industrialized nations have solved their health-care problem. We must fix our system.
Dr. Marc Yacht, MD is a semi-retired physician living in Hudson, Florida. This column courtesy of Context Florida.