Medical cost is American disgrace

Fourteen West Virginia physicians got more than $1 million each from Medicare in 2012, according to federal disclosures tallied by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

For the record, the 14 are: Craig Morgan, of Huntington; Joseph Baisden, of Princeton;John Azar, of Fairmont; Julian Espiritu, of South Charleston; Harold Leeper, of Wheeling; Charles Shelton, of Lewisburg; Sathyanarayan Reddy, of Bridgeport; Nik Shah, of Parkersburg; Rajiv Khanna, Mayez El-Harake and Wassim Saikali, all of Beckley; and Richard Hatfield, David Hunt and Abraham Mitias, all of Charleston.

The Mountain State figures became public Wednesday in a stunning nationwide release that showed a few doctors collecting fortunes from taxpayers. A Florida ophthalmologist got $21 million for high-priced eye injections. A dozen other doctors got more than $10 million each.

Physician groups fought fiercely to prevent the Obama administration from revealing detailed Medicare outlays. Thank heaven, a federal judge ruled the public information cannot be hidden from the people. After all, it’s the people’s money.

We think this jolting disclosure spotlights the sky-high cost of U.S. medical care. Americans pay more than people in any other nation — yet their health isn’t any better.

Other modern democracies created national, universal, single-payer systems providing health insurance for every citizen — at much lower cost. Foreign plans wipe out expensive insurance bureaucracies and cut expense drastically.

Why can’t America reduce medical escalation as other nations do? Is it because U.S. leaders are less intelligent than their counterparts in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, etc.? Or is it because capitalist America insists on “free market” medicine, for-profit medicine, high-earning medicine, big-money medicine?

America operates on a fee-for-service principle. Doctors bill for each medical step they take. A physician who performs 50 procedures a day collects 50 times. How the money rolls in. Taxpayer money.

If other nations curtail medical expense, America can do likewise. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a landmark step for health reform. It should be followed by tough new laws to bring costs down.

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