Monday, November 26, 2012

"Free" keeps getting more expensive

Dr Peter Weiss, Director and Founder of The Rodeo Drive Women's Health Center, is finally catching on to at least one ObamaTax gotcha, the "free" annual exam. As Bob noted last summer, "if you don't follow the rules, your free annual exam could cost you $500 - $1000 or more."

Fast forward a few months, and Dr Weiss reports some changes reflecting this reality at his practice:

"I have now posted a notice in my office and each exam room stating exactly what Obamacare will cover for those yearly visits. Remember Obama promised this as a free exam — no co-pay, no deductible, no charge. That’s fine and dandy if you are healthy and have no complaints."

Aye, thar's the rub: as long as you're fit-as-a-fiddle in the first place (and/or if you had previously treated and now stable conditions) then you're likely to get out of the examining room with wallet intact. But woe to the patient who also has new issues:

"[Y]ou will not be covered if you want to discuss any new ailment or unstable condition. I cannot bait and switch to another code — that’s illegal."

In other words, if you're in for your routine exam, make sure not to ask the doctor about your stiff neck or new-found acid reflux. You'll need another appointment for that, one in which your deductible or co-pay will apply.

But hey, it's free, right?

BONUS: Dr Weiss also takes his scalpel to the canard of "the rich doctor" (gee, where have we heard that term before?):

"[D]octors are not rich and, like most of you, actually work terribly hard for a living. Second, Obamacare is the law — and as I said earlier, we are audited all the time now."

And this is only going to get worse: as we've noted, there's already a shortage of providers, and Dr Weiss thinks we're seeing just the beginning of of that trend:

"By 2014, less than 25% of physicians will be in private medicine. Obama was right in stating you can keep your doctor if you want to — the problem is he or she will rarely be available."

Three cheers for the ObamaTax, no?
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