Letter: Heart month in a broken system
It is ironic that, as we celebrate women's heart month to lessen the impact of cardiovascular disease on our mothers and grandmothers and sisters, we have to report the systematic dismantling of the CV care system so critical to the heart health of the women and all Americans.
On Jan. 1, Medicare instituted a 20 percent to 40 percent cut in reimbursement for cardiology services performed in offices. In only 30 days, this cut has forced several practices across the state to be faced with a decision: either discontinue performing necessary tests because they actually lose money for doing these tests or close down their practices. Most offices have started laying off workers as they face this decision.
Across the United States more than 30 percent of cardiology practices have integrated with hospitals, forcing all patients into one system. Ensuring that each patient gets the right test at the right time is how the cardiovascular professionals of the U.S. lowered the death rate from coronary heart disease 29 percent during the years 1995 to 2005. Without access in offices to tests and care, patients will be forced to go to the hospital, which translates into more time, more paperwork and more expense for the patient and the taxpayer.
Patients will see co-pays rise dramatically. For seniors on fixed income, they may be tempted to put off critical testing. Taxpayers will see the Medicare budget explode because hospital reimbursement for tests are currently two to three times as much as in-office rates.
There is a bill in Congress that would fix this problem. We urge patients to contact their representatives and ask their lawmakers to co-sponsor HR 4371. Let's only support reform that actually helps the health care system.
Douglas Rothrock, M.D.
Stephen Stuart, M.D.