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I hope everyone is having (or had) a happy Fourth of July. Early Friday morning, I couldn’t help but notice this front-page headline on my local newspaper:
Docs sick of Medicare
Naturally, this caught my attention. Are doctors claiming Medicare doesn’t work? That’s certainly what the headline seems to be implying. So I went home and checked out the papers’ website to find out more about the story. I didn’t spot the story right away because on the website, not only was the HEADLINE reduced to small font and buried beneath a story on “holiday travel”, but had completely changed names to now read: “More Texas doctors opting out of Medicare”… a slightly less damning headline.

So I click on the story to learn that more and more Texas doctors are tired of fighting with the government over cuts in reimbursement. The Bush Administration has seen fit to cut the amount of money Medicare pays every year since taking office and redirect those funds to doctors in private practice:

Medicare cuts by year

From the story (emphasis mine):

Only 58 percent of doctors in the state now accept new Medicare patients, according to a recent survey by the Texas Medical Association, down from an estimated 90 percent before 1990. Among primary-care doctors, the percentage is 38 percent.

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Were the 10.6 percent cut and an additional 5 percent cut scheduled for January 2009 to go through, Texas doctors would lose $860 million treating the elderly and disabled over the next 18 months, according to TMA. On average, each Texas doctor would face an $18,000 cut over that period.

If that happened, said one Texas doctor, “you can’t imagine the Medicare exodus” that would follow.

Congress, mired in partisan bickering about how to pay for the additional funding both parties agree is necessary, already missed a June 30 deadline to prevent the 10.6 percent cut.

CMS [the Harris “County Medical Society”] intervened after the Senate voted last week not to take up legislation passed by the House. That would have dipped into a Medicare pool of money that currently goes to private, fee-for-service insurers and use it for the traditional Medicare program. President Bush had vowed to veto that bill.

Federal Medicare funds are being redirected to pay Private Insurers and starve Medicare. When Congress tries to redirect some of those funds going to private insurers back to Medicare, President Bush vows to veto the bill. And with an Administration that refuses to do anything about skyrocketing medical costs, doctors are losing more & more money as the Bush Administration cuts how much they are reimbursed. Doctors aren’t “sick of Medicare”, they’re sick of fighting with the Bush Administration over ever-diminishing funds.

Now, we are used to the Bush Administration doing a “document dump” on Friday’s knowing how few people actually read the paper or listen to the news on Saturday. But this is something completely different: a newspaper running a misleading headline to (assumedly) boost sales on a holiday weekend… and not just any misleading headline, but one that perpetuates a false Conservative misconception.