Humor columnist Dave Barry doesn't pretend to be an expert in healthcare, yet his analysis of the controversial New York teaching hospital subsidy makes some sense.
The Greater New York Hospital Association, you may recall, drew up a brilliant plan earlier this year to use $400 million in federal taxpayer funds to pay 41 hospitals to stop training so many medical students. Actually, the brilliance of this audacious idea is that HCFA agreed it was a nifty way to reduce the already swollen ranks of physician specialists.
HCFA will invest $400 million over six years in the demonstration project, believing that over the long haul it will save the Medicare program hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced graduate medical education payments.
This, of course, is the same Uncle Sam that wants to balance the federal budget, slice taxes, fight crime and continue to protect the needy. It's also the same government that has paid thousands of farmers not to grow crops on fertile land and swallowed the restructuring costs of merging weaponmakers, so there is precedence for this teaching hospital windfall.
But is it any wonder there is a crisis of confidence in both the government and the healthcare system? And lo and behold, after first complaining HCFA was giving away too many goodies to the New York hospitals, medical teaching facilities in other states now are lining up for a share of the government's booty.
While we agree the residency phase-out program cushions the blow of Medicare cutbacks, taxpayers have a right to call a foul on HCFA. Rather than weaning teaching hospitals off GME subsidies by paying full rates for fewer residents, perhaps sharp cuts in GME rates could accomplish the same thing.
But leave the last word to Dave Barry: "If there's such a surplus of doctors, how come whenever I try to see one, I have to sit in the waiting room long enough to watch `Rocky' and 14 sequels?"
A crisis in confidence, indeed.