Friday, June 27, 2008

I hope the republicans aren't counting on the "senior vote" in November

Because if they are, I think they are going to come up short and be left bewildered at the outcome. I mean really...How stupid does a politician have to be to mess with Medicare in a tough election year? Somewhere north of "stupid" and well into "hubris" is where I would place the peg.

Trust me when I tell you that this will get noticed by a group of voters who never pass up a chance to cast a ballot. And here is something else you can take to the bank - people in that age group listen to their doctors.

They are not like us. They respect the white coat, and the AMA. So when the AMA blasts the Senate and singles out the republican party by name, the republican party just bought a heap of trouble that they can ill afford with the senior vote.

"The physicians of America are outraged that a group of Republican senators followed the direction of the Bush Administration and voted to protect health insurance companies at the expense of America’s seniors, disabled and military families.

"These senators leave for their 4th of July picnics knowing that the most vulnerable Americans are at risk because of the Senate's inability to act to stop drastic payment cuts for health care services that are needed by our Medicare and TRICARE patients.

"The House voted to preserve access to care for Medicare patients in a bipartisan landslide vote to pass H.R. 6331 by an overwhelming margin of 355 to 59. The House made seniors, the disabled and military families a top priority. The AMA appreciates the courage of the 59 Senators, including 9 Republicans, who voted to put patients ahead of partisan politics and vote for H.R. 6331.

"Today, thanks to some senators, we stand at the brink of a Medicare meltdown. On July 1 – just four days from now – the government will slash Medicare physician payments by 10.6 percent, forcing many physicians to make the difficult choice to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practices.

"The Senate must return from their recess and make seniors’ health care their top priority. For doctors, this is not a partisan issue - it's a patient access issue."

If this is not dealt with immediately after the recess, we just got within striking distance of 60 votes in the Senate. If I learned one thing in my years of healthcare and dealing with seniors, it is that you don't fuck with them. You don't fuck with Social Security and you sure as hell don't fuck with Medicare. They are truly the "third rail" of American politics.

If the Medicare provider reimbursement cuts take effect, the calls will go out within hours. Doctors will cancel patient appointments and those seniors will be calling their senators office and raising hell the minute they hang up the phone. There will be blue-haired ladies outside local senate offices with picket signs in hundred degree heat, and they will be all over the local news within 72 hours. It will be a continuous loop and every Democrat running for office, from president on down to dogcatcher, will be using it in campaign ads.

The hubris these republican senators display in this instance is breathtaking. The doctors who take Medicare and TRICARE are already getting reimbursed less for seeing us than they would if we were privately insured. In fact, before these cuts went into effect I was shunted into the public health system for my orthopedic care. I used to have an orthopedic surgeon who had an office full of autographed pictures of professional athletes gushing their thanks for his carpentry skills. Today, I got my injections from a resident at Truman. I'm a healthcare pro myself, and I had to practice on patients, too, and in my professional capacity, I have had a hand in training a lot of eventual nurses, doctors and laboratory sciences types. I'm not bitching about the quality of my care, in fact I am impressed with Truman since getting bumped to them at the first of the year. Hell, I'm grateful to have any care at all, when millions don't. I'm just illustrating the point that I used to have my pick of any doc I wanted, that was one of the perks of service. Now, fuggedaboudit.

Anyway, all that aside, it is my considered and professional opinion that this is going to take a huge bite out of some republican asses, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. I'll be keeping an eye on the AARP website after the recess. If they get in on the act and start calling out Senators by name, Katy bar the door.

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