I wonder how many doctors are fed up with the private health insurance system we have in this country. I wonder how many hours they and their staff spend on billing issues. I wonder how many phone calls and follow ups they have to make in order to get paid by ten different health insurance carriers, using ten different billing systems and fee schedules. Every patient has a different health insurance plan. Every plan has different pre-authorization requirements and varied benefit levels. Some patients only have coverage for generic drugs, some only have coverage for a certain number of visits per year and want to make sure they stay under their limit. Here in Colorado, we insureds are lucky to have a multitude of options for our health insurance. But I suppose the more options we have, the more hassle the doctors have with billing. Apparently, doctors don’t have the highest job satisfaction these days. There are many issues involved – I have to say, if I worked these hours, I’d be unhappy with my job too. But I suppose they know about the hours when they head into the profession. They know they’ll have frustrating patients and patients they cannot help. They know that their job is one of great rewards and also great disappointments. But I wonder how many of them are caught off guard by all the non-clinical work they end up doing. All the time spent trying to get reimbursed for services they have already provided. In all of our discussions about universal health care and how it would be good for America, we tend to take the patients’ point of view. But what about the doctors? I know that Medicare reimbursement is not as high as private health insurance. But it sure is consistent. Would the trade off be worth it for the doctors? Less money, true. But only one health insurance system to deal with, only one fee schedule, only one set of rules to follow. We’re a nation that likes choices, so I’m sure there would be various levels of coverage available in any universal health care system we might end up with. But it would have to be easier than the current health insurance system that our physicians are forced to navigate every day. The number of docs who support universal health care has increased substantially in the last few years. As health care costs continue to increase, and health insurance carriers continue to look for ways to lower expenses, I imagine more doctors will join the ranks who are calling for national health care.
Health care providers and health insurance carriers are inextricably linked. Each will do better with the support of the other. It seems that health insurance carriers could do a lot to make their claims process a bit easier for doctors to maneuver, a bit more universal, and a lot more consistent. Maybe if the health insurance end of things was easier to deal with, more doctors would be happy with their career choice.