Interview with Harvard physician and New Yorker author Dr. Jerome Groopman, author of “How Doctors Think”
as heard on NPR Morning Edition, March 26, 2007
Doctors Shoulder Mounting Insurance Burdens
by Joanne Silberner
“Somebody’s got to do it. Who else is going to advocate for these people? I’m stuck being a secretary more than a doctor sometimes.”
Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, Family Physician
Physician participation in managed care (health insurance, HMO and PPO) sharply increased between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. In that same time, the percentage of physician income from health insurance providers more than doubled.
· Behind Dr. Rebecca Jaffe’s desk hangs a large black-and-white framed photo.
“That’s me on my third birthday, sitting on my grandmother’s step,” Jaffe says, “with my junior doctor kit.”
When she was younger, Jaffe says, she wanted to grow up to be just like the doctor who took care of her family.
She didn’t know that her life would be very different from that of her family’s doctor. She is a family physician, practicing in Wilmington, Del. But she increasingly struggles to spend quality time with her patients as disputes with insurance companies demand more of her attention.
For the first time in nearly two decades, efforts to improve the health care system are back on the national agenda. But even since former President Bill Clinton tried to overhaul the system, practicing medicine has greatly changed.
As Jaffe sees it, “insurance hopes to keep people well until they’re 65 and on Medicare.” After that, she says, it becomes somebody else’s problem.
Because insurance companies watch costs aggressively, Jaffe says she has to fight to get her patients the care they need. On two occasions, insurers told her they would pay less for an immunization than it would cost her to buy the vaccine, let alone administer it.The insurance company told her to make up the cost by seeing more patients.
“I just felt that was so wrong,” Jaffe says. She believes that good medical care takes time.
for full article and podcast, go to NPR Morning Edition March 26, 2007