As a physician, I firmly believe that Congress must repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Right now, Medicare approves $49.09 for an average office visit. That means Medicare pays 80 percent ($39.27) and the patient pays 20 percent ($9.82). If the amount is cut by 21 percent, the amount Medicare pays me would go down to $31.02.
I think we would all agree that doctors are not currently overpaid, especially by Medicare. There is significant waste in our health-care "non-system," but physician payments are not one of the areas of waste.
The Medicare physician-payment formula has been flawed from its inception, and, since 2002, Congress has had to intervene repeatedly to avert steep annual payment cuts and preserve access to care for patients. Putting another Band-Aid on the problem is no longer a viable solution. With these repeated, limited two-month or so delays, physicians and patients are in a constant state of panic.
Seniors are concerned about losing access to their physician. More and more physicians, even those who are committed to providing care for our senior citizens, are financially pressured to stop taking Medicare. At this point, in our Memphis medical community, I already have trouble finding physicians in some specialties, because they have quit taking Medicare in the past few years. This will only get worse.
I am concerned that it is fiscally irresponsible to put this problem off yet again. Each time Congress has passed a short-term intervention, it has only deepened the payment cuts in future years and increased the cost of permanently resolving the problem. The time for temporary patches has come and gone.
Barbara Geater, M.D.
Court Square Trash
In the article about Food Not Bombs feeding the homeless at Court Square Park (April 22nd issue), you wrote that the volunteers "scoured the park picking up trash after serving food to the homeless." Rather than the volunteers doing yet one more thing for the homeless, how about asking the homeless recipients of the meals to scour the park and do a little bit for the community? Where does personal responsibility begin?
Several statements made by James Mitchell in his letter (April 15th issue) were not accurate regarding the big free show at the Overton Park Shell in the 1970s.
It was folk-rock singers Seals and Crofts who performed at the Shell, not Hall and Oates. And the year was 1975, not 1976. The expected crowd was 10,000. WHBQ heavily promoted the show. The estimated 21,000 who showed up put a strain on the Memphis Police Department, who had to send extra officers to maintain crowd control.
The concert itself, considering the massive crowd, was remarkably calm and uneventful. Although there was plenty of alcohol and marijuana, most people were mellow and nonaggressive. Peer pressure kept the peace. No arrests were made, and the concert soon became part of the legendary history of the renowned Overton Park Shell.
The "Religitics" (those who combine religion and politics) have it backward. They say they are God fearin' and gun lovin'. Wouldn't it be better to be God lovin' and gun fearin'?
In Arizona, Republican lawmakers have crafted one of the most outlandish laws in recent memory. A whole segment of society — brown-skinned Hispanics and Latinos — will become the unintended (or maybe intended) targets of this flawed illegal immigration legislation.
The law is a thinly veiled tool of racial profiling based on skin color and ethnicity. The Jim Crow legacy of discrimination and oppression is alive and well in Arizona. The new law victimizes both Latinos and the police who have to enforce it. It makes cops a judge and jury over fellow citizens who just happen to fit a profile and puts all Hispanics and Latinos at the mercy of law enforcement.
This law is something out of the "dark ages" and is an affront to democracy. Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, who signed the bill into law, was asked if she knew what an illegal immigrant looked like. She stammered and replied, "I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like." Do police? I rest my case.
Nevada City, California