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Illinois Doctors Rake in Millions from Medicaid

Money and medical care–a pairing that at once seems dangerous and unnecessary. But of course finances are intimately entwined with the health care that all of us receive when we need it. As the recent debates over national health care policy makes plain, community members are still deeply divided over the best course to take to ensure that all of the wheels in the operation–from doctors and drug manufacturers to insurance consumers and patients–are balanced to provide the best care to the most people at the lowest cost.

Unfortunately, the civil justice system is often unfairly added to the mix. That’s because there remains a mistaken notion (advanced by unsavory politics) that allowing fair access to the civil justice system following medical malpractice somehow greatly increases the cost of care. Time and again this has been proven obviously untrue. There very well are issues about paying for the care that we all need–but an actual solution is not found in curtailing the legal rights of former patients.

Medicaid & Money
Instead, a more obvious solution must involve restructuring the main systems that provide the care. Medical treatments must be made based solely on the patient need and not at all on the financial incentives for the providers (or the insurers). We have a long way to go before we reach that point, however.

Take as an example a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business on “Medicaid Millionaire Doctors.” The article explains how a select few doctors in Illinois were able to rake in at least $1 million working with Medicaid patients. Medicaid is the joint state and federal program that provides support for the poor and disabled. There are constantly complaints for medical care providers about the low reimbursement rates provided by Medicaid. Many argue that doctors and hospitals simply cannot provide the service necessary based on those reimbursement rates. Medical errors and low quality care is also often claimed to be caused by problems with the money paid by the public sources for this care.

Yet, at least ten doctors in Illinois were able to make millions using Medicaid reimbursements. How? According to the report, the secret is in running high-volume practices. Some doctors then receive cuts for services performed by others “under their supervision.” In this way the professionals can earn more than what they can provide on their own.

For example, one doctor in Chicago–a pathologist–was able to make nearly $6 million in one year alone. Another medical professional, a urologist, received almost $5 million. Yet, that doctor is currently under an investigation by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services for potential problems in their billing practices.

No one is begrudging these doctors–or any professionals–their financial success. However, it is crucial when making tough decisions about these health care programs and patient safety initiatives that a fair and accurate picture be painted about the state of money and medicine in our state. It is unacceptable for disingenuous claims about financial trouble be used to take coverage away from those in needs and legal rights from those harmed.

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