Heart specialists on Monday filed suit against Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in an effort to stave off steep Medicare fee cuts for routine office-based procedures such as nuclear stress tests and echocardiograms.I doubt that by the time the “reforms hit the pavement” that cardiology will be the only field affected. The problem with cost containment is that bureaucrats, not doctors, decide who will be allowed to be treated and what that treatment will be. If a panel in Washington decides that mammograms are unnecessary for women under the age of fifty younger women will not be given routine screenings despite the fact that breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women between the age of 15 and 54.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charges that the government's planned cutbacks will deal a major blow to medical care in the USA, forcing thousands of cardiologists to shutter their offices, sell diagnostic equipment and work for hospitals, which charge more for the same procedures. (emphasis added)
"What they've done is basically killed the private practice of cardiology," says Jack Lewin, CEO of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), which represents 90% of the roughly 40,000 heart specialists in the USA.
The issues raised in the lawsuit are not related to the health reform legislation being hammered out on Capitol Hill. But the dispute offers a revealing case study of the impact of payment reform on one specialty — cardiologists — and, ultimately, their patients.
It also illustrates the vulnerability of the heart doctors, who over the past few decades have invested heavily in nuclear scanners and other costly tools of their trade only to discover that they may be too expensive to operate in an era of increasing restraint on medical costs.
It is easy to call any particular medical procedure unnecessary unless you or your loved one needs it. That decision should not be taken away from doctors and their patients.
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