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Steve Hansen: Who can blame doctors for wanting to leave profession?

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Posted: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 6:00 pm

My doctor is quitting his practice within the next few weeks.

I guess he’s tired of HMOs, PPOs, Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, Tricare, Obamacare, along with extensive HIPAA health care regulations. All of these issues force him to see a lot more patients for a lot less money, so who can blame the guy for leaving?

At one time, most physicians were in private practice.

But government paperwork and low payments for services have compelled the vast majority of doctors to either head for the nearest exit or become employees of hospital corporations.

These professionals can’t afford to have a staff on hand to figure out the ridiculous and unnecessary complications of insurance coding and billing while being paid less than an Uber driver for medically necessary procedures.

These days, most physicians’ kids aren’t going to medical school. They have decided it is not worth four years of college, four years of medical school, along with multi-year residencies — all which cost outrageous amounts of their families’ hard-earned finances — just to get a job that receives reimbursement as low as 20 cents on the dollar.

Quite frankly, I’m a little worried about my doc’s replacement. The problem is that new clinicians on the block may not have his decades of experience. My physician has treated more patients than the population of Pittsburg and not much symptomatology gets by that he hasn’t been seen before.

Believe it or not, over the years, my wife and I have had our best medical treatment right here in loveable Lodi — without exception.

She has been seen at a famous teaching hospital in the Bay Area on a few occasions, but the results were always somewhat bizarre. The first guy was an ear, nose and throat specialist, who said she would never taste and smell again.

The good news is that he was dead wrong. My wife now can smell those cows on Highway 4 long before I do. The bad news is I can no longer create copious amounts of methane under the covers and get away with it.

On another occasion at the same university hospital, my wife was told she didn’t have Sjogren’s syndrome.

“But the blood test says I do,” she told the rheumatologist.

“Oh,” he replied. “Well, I’ve got a plane to catch. We’ll discuss it in a month when I get back from Italy.”

At the same hospital, a young neurologist wanted to give us a summary of a medical school textbook.

“I’ve read the book,” I told her. “What can you tell us beyond that?”

There was just a blank stare.

Six months later, she left the hospital and is now working for a drug company. I hear the blank stare is still there.

My doctor never asked for much during his career. He just wanted to treat patients to the best of his ability and be reasonably compensated for doing it.

But all good things must come to an end, and I guess medicine is no exception. There just isn’t enough money in the universe to provide all things to all people who want top-of-the-line Cadillac care at Ford Pinto prices.

Some in California think the solution is to tax the rich. But what happens when the rich say, “Texas and Florida look like better places to park our Bentleys.” Who pays the bills then?

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot more Bentleys in Austin and Boca Raton.

Nevertheless, I wish my doctor well in his new endeavors.

It’s a shame his experience and diagnostic talents won’t be around to share with many thankful and grateful patients.

However, on a positive note, we all can use intelligent Uber drivers, and I’m sure he’ll turn out to be one of the best.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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