Sunday, April 27, 2008

Geriatric Jitters

As it seems so often happens, the Toledo Blade has taken a topic of legitimate concern, carefully analyzed it, and gotten it all wrong. The topic was that of geriatric care in the United States, and how the system would soon be overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of Americans requiring such care. 

While I do not dispute the numbers of aging Americans, the number of doctors and nurse's aides, or even the average pay of $10.67 per hour, I submit to you that the Blade completely overlooks the true cause of the problem and implies an unacceptable solution.  

The Problem, which the Blade skirts over quickly, is that doctors and nurses in geriatric care specialization get paid by and large by Medicare and Medicaid. These payments are fixed by the government and involve volumes of paperwork for the practitioners for proper reimbursement. The surprise therefore is not the shortage of practitioners, but that any would willingly work under government wage and price controls.  

The Solution that the Blade seeks is: "Immediate action is urged to strengthen the work force in the long term." I don't know about you, but this sounds suspiciously like government intervention in increasing the number of practitioners. 

Perhaps government subsidies for doctors going into geriatric care or a minimum wage for caregivers in this area of practice is required. Heck, maybe we can set quotas (governments are good at that) of the number of doctors and nurses who have to go into geriatric care. 

Like most of our politicians, the Blade appears to believe that the answer to failed government intervention is more government intervention. As someone who is far too close to "care for the aged" than I would like to admit, I vehemently disagree and hope that realistic alternatives (not involving government) can be proposed and discussed before its too late. 


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