What Should Be Done
I would like to express a few thoughts regarding the current health care system. For President Obama to fulfill his intention of making affordable health care available for everyone, all health insurance companies must become nonprofit. Currently, they seem driven only by the desire to make money for their CEOs and shareholders, and they demonstrate a gross lack of concern for people’s health.
Doctors should be in the driver’s seat of the health care industry and should not be controlled by the seemingly arbitrary dictates of health insurance companies, which undermine the respect that doctors deserve.
After undergoing many years of education and hard training, doctors should receive more reasonable payments for their professional services from insurance companies. Some payers allow $30 or less for an office visit. A plumber would easily charge over $100 for diagnosis, parts and labor. Are not a physician’s skills just as valuable, if not more so?
Moreover, capitation of medical malpractice claim payments should be established to avoid expensive and unnecessary lawsuits. Such a step would cut down the overall cost of medical care.
Edward Y. T. Shen, MD
Get Involved, Meet Your Legislator
It seems that every year, we are bombarded with e-mails and letters warning about the ongoing assault on the profession of ophthalmology. State and national legislation is produced with the sole purpose of expanding the scope of practice of optometrists. Add in the constant threat of decreased reimbursement due to the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, and it is hard not to feel depressed and panicked over our current situation.
When one is confronted with a problem, ignoring the issue rarely translates into an acceptable solution. That is why it is critical that ophthalmologists become active in molding the legislative course of our profession.
Over the last three years, I have been fortunate to have attended Congressional Advocacy Day, a meeting held in conjunction with the Mid-Year Forum. The energy and excitement of walking on Capitol Hill to talk to representatives and senators is difficult to describe. You are transformed from a small cog in the complicated machine of our health care system into someone who makes a difference.
Without further SGR intervention, we are slated to receive a 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement in January 2010. While this will have an obvious impact on our bottom line, it poses an even greater threat to our patients. They will suffer due to reduced access to physicians and delayed intervention.
Reminding our legislators of this through visiting their offices during Congressional Advocacy Day (April 22 and 23) is one of many steps we can take toward making a difference. When you register, the Academy will schedule visits with your senators and representatives and/or their staff. Take this opportunity to present the concerns of the profession to your legislators.
Also consider supporting our profession’s federal and state legislative endeavors by becoming a member of OphthPAC and your state ophthalmology society and political action committee.
Join me as an advocate for our patients and profession!
Aaron M. Miller, MD
Member, Academy Young
and Academy Leadership
___________________________ For more information regarding OphthPAC and to make a contribution, visit www.aao.org/advocacy and click “OphthPAC.” To register for Congressional Advocacy Day or the Mid-Year Forum, visit www.aao.org/meetings and click “Mid-Year Forum.”
Good Food for Thought
I am embarrassed for our cherished profession by the fact that half of the avoidable blindness in the developing world is still caused by cataract. As long as we are not dealing with these approximately 15 million patients, we cannot boast about the successes of our medical specialty.
Your November/December Opinion (“Everything’s So Different: Have I Been Asleep?”) regarding the globalization of ophthalmic education and the roles of the World Health Organization and the International Council of Ophthalmology reminds our colleagues about some approaches to tackle this problem. I hope you continue to offer your opinion in EyeNet.
Gottfried O. Naumann, MD