Avoid 'greased pig' strategy

When I was a boy, just for fun at afternoon picnics, we participated in an amusing energy-consuming contest. A young piglet of a few months’ age was lathered up with Crisco and about 10 naïve, pre-adolescent boys would chase and try to corner that little pig on a church softball field. Several times, we would actually briefly catch the squirming, slippery, frightened fugitive, but before we could carry him back to the gate, he would wriggle free from our tenuous grasp, and the whole squealing escapade would start afresh.

As a physician, I can tell you that doctors are very much like that greased pig – or at least, the federal government views us that way. They find it very hard to control and manage such a wily creature.

So, at the end of our little event, how did the farmer get his pig back? I watched as he would pull a crate out of his truck and put it onto the field of play. What he did next has stuck with me ever since. He unwrapped and started eating a chocolate bar. The remainder he waved under the pig’s nose, then tossed it into the crate. The little pig happily followed until he dropped the door behind the temporarily satiated swine.

For the past two years, Medicare has been offering to pay doctors $44,000 to participate in their electronic health record (EHR) data collection scheme under the auspices of better information-sharing, time savings or improved record-keeping. They also will pay the doctors in terms of a percent of Medicare billings a bonus as long as the doctor meets “meaningful-use” criteria.

After 2015, this will turn into a penalty for any doctors who don’t electronically comply. The criteria, of course, of necessity demand that the EHR be immediately shared with the Department of Health and Human Services via the Internet.

That forty-four grand is just like the chocolate bar, and after what we have seen the Internal Revenue Service do to target political enemies of the current administration, are you comfortable in having them in control of your medical decision-making as laid out in Obamacare? A few doctors, myself included, have declined to participate, choosing rather to opt out of Medicare altogether, or at least not to be complicit in the data collection scheme.

You should demand that your Medicare benefits be paid directly to you instead of the provider, if you even choose to continue to play along. If you confront your doctors about the privacy of your EHR – and in my opinion the record is yours – they likely will relate to you that they cannot get paid without it.

Look into House Resolution 1700, the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act.

James Oakman, M.D.

Augusta

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