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Dissing Doctors | The Nation

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Dissing Doctors

U.S. doctors are wondering if this might be the first year since 2002 that Congress won't intervene to keep Medicare fully funded, since lawmakers failed to pass legislation before leaving for their July Fourth recess. The Bush administration said Monday that it will delay Medicare payments to doctors for ten business days to give Congress time to reach a deal to block the cut.

Meanwhile, just coincidentally (or maybe not) some - like Minnesota Senator NOrm Coleman are all steamed up about a GAO report that alleges that thousands of Medicare providers owe more than $2 billion in back taxes. "Crack down on Medicare scofflaws," run the headlines. "It's shocking" says Coleman.

Some Medicare facilities may not be paying out what they should in tax, but if we want to talk about who's making out in our medical system let's keep some perspective.

Take two recent stories.

A new report on tropical diseases compares the rise of viral and parasitic infections among this country's poor to disease rates found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In terms of health, poor people in the US might as well live in a developing country.

Meanwhile, in California, HMOs raked in more than $4 billion last year. Last time I looked, average pay for hospital CEOS was well in excess of 1 million a year. And hospitals are adding deluxe suites for patients who can pay top dollars.

We spend more money on healthcare than any nation in the world--by far. But our results are glaringly uneven. And here we go again. Blaming doctors. There may be some -- even a ward full of bad apples, but it's not doctors that are the problem with our healthcare system. It's the profits. Estimates for 2008 are that employer health care costs are up 10%. And next year is likely to be the same. Unless we do something.

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