9/05/2009

No budget cut backs for government health care? just look to Canada

A sign of the future for America?

Health authority plans to do 4,400 fewer scans to ease cash shortfall
By Lindsay Kines and Richard Watts
Staff reporters
The Victoria Times Colonist
September 4, 2009
MRI scans that are used to detect tumours, fractures and other ailments will be cut by 20 per cent this year, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has confirmed.

The health authority plans to do 4,400 fewer of the magnetic resonance imaging scans to help cover a $45-million budget shortfall, figures released yesterday show.

The cuts likely mean patients will wait in pain even longer for treatment and surgery -- and already they are waiting twice as long as last year.

VIHA spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said patients are being booked for March, six months away, for elective MRI scans. Last year, wait times for MRI scans were only three months.

Marshall said emergency scans will be performed immediately.

Howard Waldner, VIHA's chief executive officer, had previously said that the authority would return to 2008-2009 budgeted levels for MRIs as a cost-saving measure as it wrestles with a projected deficit of about $45 million on its total $1.7-billion budget.

Last year, medical imaging in VIHA went 9.2 per cent over budget, to $21.2 million instead of the planned $19.4 million. The figures released yesterday showed 18,100 MRI scans were budgeted for last year, but 22,567 were performed.

If the health authority returns to budgeted levels, that's a drop of more than 4,400 MRIs.

Critics say the move to reduce the number of scans contradicts the Liberal government's election promises. "In spite of the fact that the government campaigned on more MRIs, they weren't telling the truth. They're having to cut MRIs and having to cut MRIs by 20 per cent," said NDP health care critic Adrian Dix.

"It really is an indication of their plans for health care here on Vancouver Island."

Health Minister Kevin Falcon conceded wait times for non-emergency procedures will be going up as health authorities scale back to meet their budgets. . . .

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2 Comments:

Blogger AnonymousDoe said...

The future is already here:

Medical Scans Waste $30 Billion a Year, Insurers Say

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- Insurers, led by WellPoint Inc. and Magellan Health Services Inc., are increasingly rejecting imaging procedures recommended by U.S. doctors as the companies work to trim $30 billion a year they say is wasted on the tests.

CT and MRI scans that allow doctors to peer inside the body can cost as much as $2,000 each. Almost 50 percent of scans for some conditions fail to improve patients' diagnoses or treatment, according to a report issued today by America's Health Insurance Plans, a Washington-based trade group.

With U.S. health costs projected to grow to 25 percent of the economy in 2025 from 16 percent now, insurers are turning to so-called radiology benefit managers who can reject scans determined to be unneeded, said Shay Pratt of the Advisory Board Co., a Washington-based consultant to hospitals.

9/05/2009 4:51 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Anonymous:

Do you understand that it isn't rationing when you have private health insurance? You pick how much care that you want with the size of the premium that you are willing to pay. Some people who want to get more extensive coverage and more tests will pay higher premiums. The insurance companies face a trade-off. If they don't cut down on waste and fraud (and it does exist), they will have to charge people higher premiums. The point is that with a private insurance system you pick how much you want. It is no different than you get to pick how much food you want when you go to the grocery store.

9/05/2009 8:15 PM  

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