Is this happening to a practice near you? He is closing as the system is not working. $60,000.00 a year is not much income for all the time and education invested to become a physician, yet with current contracts with HMO carriers, this is sometimes all that is left after the bills are paid. Specialists fair better under the system, but they have had cuts as well with contracts. In my travels, depending on the practice, it is not unusual to see family practice physicians at this level of income in California based on recent contract agreements, and they are the turnkey to our system, in other words we all need to start with a primary care physician for health care, so I ask, what is wrong with this picture? BD
For 26 years, Dr. Joseph Lalka has been a family doctor, treating 3,000 patients in his cramped office in Chatham, N.Y., a small town nestled in the rural northern part of the state. But Lalka recently told his patients he is taking down his shingle and closing his practice. He says he no longer can afford to maintain a family practice.
“Here is a doctor who is not retiring because he wants to,” says Constance Mondel, 81, who Lalka has treated for many years. “He is leaving because the system is not working. It’s a real shame.”
Lalka, 54, says that with an income of only $60,000 last year, and little opportunity to expand his practice, he no longer is able to make ends meet. Now Lalka will work for a company that assigns doctors to temporary work. “Unfortunately, our health system rewards the surgeon who amputates the infected foot of a diabetic much more than the primary care doctor who discovers the preliminary symptoms of the disease and recommends ways to prevent it,” said Grumbach.
Family doctors are in an untenable position because shrinking Medicare payments often cover only 60 percent of the cost of treating a patient. Medicare also allows no adjustment for inflation, and operating expenses increase 3 percent to 5 percent annually, said Dr. Terry McGeeney, the president of TransforMed, an organization established to address the quandary faced by family doctors.
Hat Tip: Kevin, MD