Let’s face it; today’s doctors are businessmen first, physicians second. The medical industry has made it necessary for nearly all medical professionals to base their business survival on how they run their practices, how much product they sell, and how much money they make, rather than making day to day working decisions based solely on the best interests of their patients. It’s been known for years that Big Pharma is “fettle adverse” when it comes to your health condition. The medical community makes its money off of people being sick, not healthy, so it stands to reason that healing everyone would work against its primary motivator, the bottom line. Still, most of us feel that our doctor cares for us first and foremost, but is that true? Is it accurate to believe that our doctors really want us as patients because they care about us, or do they want us for patients because we prosper their business when we show up sick in their waiting rooms? The answer may surprise you.
So you’ve done well. You’ve been watching what you eat, you’re active, you lost a little weight, and you feel better than you have in years. You decide your going to pay your doctor a visit for a wellness check. Sure, it’s been awhile, but all the more reason to check in with the doc to make sure all the cylinders are firing right? You then make the call to setup the appointment and pow! You find out from the nice lady working in your former doctors office that you are no longer a patient there! That’s right, your physician has dropped you, because you haven’t been in to see him in a while. Sound familiar? If not, it’s likely you’ll experience this situation at some point, especially if you’ve been taking care of yourself and you haven’t paid your doc a visit for awhile.
Like it or not, more and more physicians across the United States are dropping patients who take care of themselves in favor of those who get sick more often. They’re keeping those who have chronic medical conditions that require frequent visit, and need more disease management. Favoring quotas for patient visits, issuing prescriptions, and ordering medical tests and procedures has become the order of the day, and people who keep themselves well and work hard at maintaining their health are being targeted as less profitable and are being dropped by the thousands simply because they don’t produce as much revenue for the pharmaceutical companies and Big Pharma.
The truth is that Americans of working age are going to the doctor less frequently than they were years ago as millenials find less time to make medical appointments.(1) More than half of millennials use retail clinics, urgent care centers or emergency rooms for nonemergency care, and they are more prone to do so than people in other age groups, according to a survey by the nonprofit FAIR Health, which conducts research on health data. Research by other firms has generated similar findings. Combine that with disastrous Obamacare, where doctors have been pressured by costly new regulations and overly burdensome and intricate payment regulations that tie their Medicare reimbursement to complex federal reporting requirements, and mandates that they install and make “meaningful” use of electronic health records, and things get worse. If you then add to that the fact that a large proportion of your doctor’s patients are moving away quickly from commercial health plans and into the arms of Medicaid that is known for paying doctors a fraction of what they previously were reimbursed under private insurance, and you have a recipe for disaster for your doctor and his or her business model.(2) It then becomes much clearer why you suddenly find yourself with no doctor, and the distasteful task of either begging for forgiveness to be added again to the patient rolls, or searching for a new physician.
Avoiding the patient orphanage
If you like your doctor and you don’t fancy the idea of having to find a new one, there are several strategies you can use to avoid being assigned to the patient orphanage.
1: First find out if you are in fact without a doctor. One of the problems many people face is that they don’t discover their doctor has dumped them until they try and make an appointment. It’s then they find out they’re no longer on the patient roll and they’re shocked. It’s no fun trying to find a new doctor especially when you’re in need of medical attention now, so find out if you no longer have a physician.
2: Get on the schedule. Once you are sure your doctor will still see you make an appointment, even if it’s just for a wellness check. Even though one of the core principals of the Fettle Freak is to avoid seeing your doctor as much as possible, that principal holds in the context of seeing your doctor due to illness. It doesn’t apply to regular check-ups and wellness checks. You need to verify your health condition from time to time, and seeing your doctor for regular physicals and wellness screenings is a must, so make that appointment. Once you’ve seen your doctor and before you leave the office with your stellar health report, schedule your next wellness visit. It’s not likely you’ll be dropped from your doctor’s patient roll if you’re in the system and scheduled for an appointment, even if it’s a year or more out.
3: Check policy. Simply ask your doctor or the staff it it’s company policy to drop patients for infrequent visits. If your doc is one that does in fact drop patients due to infrequent visits, it’s less likely you’ll be dropped because you’re one of the healthy ones not needing frequent patient care if he knows you’re aware of the practice. It’s always good to let them know you’re informed.
4: Ask for a heads up before being dropped. There are regulations in place to prevent health insurance companies from dropping patients, but the laws regarding the doctor/patient relationship, if any, don’t seem to be as strong. There’s conflicting information regarding the “rules” for dropping patients, and even if they exist, it’s not clear how they would be enforced. Do you really want to go war and to court just to keep your doctor? Most people wouldn’t go to the trouble, but it’s still a pain when you get dropped. The best strategy for most people would be to just move on, and if you can get your doctor to give you a heads up that you’ve been dropped before you find out during a medical crisis or during an illness, that would be ideal.
Now that you know it’s possible you might not have a doctor and your fettle might not be where you thought it was with regard to medical care, take action. It’s best to be proactive in this area, and given the turbulent condition of our health care system today, you can’t be too careful!