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Doctors going bankrupt?

There is a common conception that physicians and their medical practices are recession proof and that their high salaries ensure a high standard of living. However, recently news broke out discussing the impact of new changes to health care services that is resulting in decreased revenues, and in some cases causing physicians in the United States to go bankrupt.

Certainly there are a number of things to consider as to why this is happening. Some have suggested that decreased funding for commonly performed procedures such as stress echocardiograms, used for risk stratification for heart attacks, is having an impact on revenue sources for physicians (in this case cardiologists). However, a lack of business acumen may certainly also be at play; after all, conventional physician training does not encompass the handling of finances.

Dr. Marc Siegel provided his view on this issue on Fox News, suggesting also that new regulation stemming from the current administration is increasing the costs for smaller practices. Though this may certainly be true, it is worth looking at one of his examples: shifting to electronic record keeping and electronic prescriptions. Though such new requirements may initially increase costs, as Dr. Siegel proposed, it is obvious that these changes are inevitable and will likely lead to greater efficiency and less clerical error in the future.

It is clear that the current cost trajectory of health care, and in particular Medicare, is unsustainable. As changes occur and spending cuts are brought forth to reign in on government expenditure, revenues will surely decrease for physicians. Cuts for particular procedures which are the main focus of some physicians will certainly affect them the most and will require either a reevaluation or perhaps even a cessation of services offered in an effort to remain viable.

One last thing to consider is the anticipated broad cuts to Medicare of about 27 percent soon to take effect unless the government intervenes. Such a drastic cut may lead to even more hardship for physicians and their patients if service cuts for patients result as a consequence. Fixing the Medicare issue requires diligence; though physicians will struggle financially, their patients have more to lose than money.

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