Pediatricians, family docs, internists, family practices: These are the physicians who see people at the front end of our health system. They are often not only the closest to the patients they serve but also are the best-equipped to prevent minor health care problems from turning into major ones. Primary care doctors serve the whole patient and are the necessary strong foundation of any rational health care system – just ask any parent of a child with a nasty ear infection being seen on Saturday at short notice by the pediatrician the family has known for years.
Of course, our health care system being what it is, we pay these primary care doctors much less than we pay specialists. Heck, even that old favorite Milton-Bradley board game, Operation, pays “specialists” twice as much or more for performing the same procedure as the regular old “doctor”! But now, thanks to Obamacare, we are starting to recognize the value of a health system focused on primary care and disease prevention and not just the latest technological wonder drug or device.
In NC, primary care docs who see poor Medicaid patients are going to get a significant jump in what we pay for their services. [The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report on this today.] They aren’t going to get rich – we are just raising their pay to the same level that the Medicare program pays them to see older adults – but at least it is a start on recognizing their importance to our health care system.