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Another Band-Aid for Democraticare

When members of Congress grandly gave older Americans Medicare, and indigent people Medicaid, they greatly lowballed what the programs would cost taxpayers.

To avoid responsibility for giving voters a gargantuan bill, politicians simply did not pay the going rate for the care they took credit for giving people.

Both programs are notorious for poor reimbursement of the doctors and hospitals that care for their patients. Even with that advantage, Medicare is projected to go broke in 2026, and Medicaid has become a budget-buster in many states.

Underpayment by government has caused other Americans' health premiums to go up.

Hence the clamor for the laughably named Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, which would subsume the existing programs' unaffordability into a larger sea of unaffordability.

The act requires states to expand the Medicaid program even more. West Virginia, which bears part of the cost of the Medicaid program, expects 91,500 more people to sign up for that subsidized coverage.

Which has led to a problem - paying primary-care physicians well enough that they are willing to take new Medicaid patients.

As Zack Harold of the Daily Mail reported recently, the Medicare program does not pay providers the full cost of care, and the state has been paying physicians who care for Medicaid patients only 80 percent of the Medicare rate.

Therefore, many of the state's 2,100 primary care physicians will take only so many Medicaid patients. They would go broke if they accepted more.

Thus, federal health care managers have applied another multimillion-dollar Band-Aid to keep the system functioning.

The federal government will give West Virginia $24 million more in 2014 so it can pay doctors who take Medicaid patients at least as much as the underpayment they receive for caring for Medicare patients.

If everything goes right, this will prompt 2,100 primary physicians to take an average of 43 more Medicaid patients each, and everybody will get what politicians promised them.

As for finding $24 million additional dollars just for one state, not to worry.

The federal government has run up a $16 trillion national debt already. The affordable care bill will simply be thrown on the can't-afford ledger - to be passed on to the kids.




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