How Is the Economy Affecting Radiologists Since The Reform

Published: 06th April 2010
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Professionals in the field of Radiology (including physicians, technologists, assistants, and aides) are presently experiencing a conflicting employment environment. On the one hand, the need for such radiological services is increasing, while reimbursements are being cut concurrently. The new presidential health care reforms recently signed into law should increase the entire number of cases for all branches of medicine, but will it indeed make additional remuneration rate cuts to pay for extending and including more of these procedures?

While the current health care policy should raise enrollment rates, this push for demand for services should also raise costs. One way the government hopes to control possible cost increases will be to Medicare cut reimbursement rates. As all insurance payments to physicians are based on Medicare rates any cuts by them will ripple though the industry. This has already been happening to some extent the last few years for Radiologists.

Another way costs may improve is new technologies may be developed that will help Radiologists work in a more efficient, cost effective manner. One thing is certain and that is the aging population will cause the long-term demand for the services of radiologists to increase in the future.

The Slowing Economy and Aging Population

U.S. studies have long indicated that there will be shortages of Radiologists in the future. Currently, there are about 30,000 practicing radiologists in the US. One study in 1998 by The American College of Radiology, concluded there was a calculated shortage of six hundred with a few years.

The citizens of the US are aging rapidly. Over the next two decades the 70 and over age group will expand significantly, leading to a 95% increase. As people age their healthcare needs naturally increase, because of this, the demand for health care will escalate.

While it?s no surprise the state of the economy has led to a recession, it has dramatically impacted the income of many physicians. When people lose their jobs, they consequentially lose their health care benefits and, so, access to health care. Further, the manufacturers of state-of-the-art imaging equipment may take a big hit should government insurance payments for such procedures be reduced. Lower reimbursements may make hospitals reconsider buying the multimillion-dollar imaging machines, especially if they no longer pay for themselves.

The recent stock market and economic failures have had a major impact on elder physicians? retirement plans. Some are postponing retirement because of the economy's impact on their retirement savings. But even a postponement of a few years will not remedy the loss of veteran physicians. This aforesaid postponement has resulted in less available jobs. Graduating residents are unable to access as many opportunities as before. Residents, rather than committing to less desirable jobs, are now opting for Radiology Locum.

After years of rising salaries, Radiologists are seeing a drop in income as reimbursements fall. This condition is not restricted to Radiology jobs alone; last year United States hospitals saw more patients without insurance or the resources to pay their hospital bills. Bad debt has increased, while contributions have fallen. The United States is on the brink of a physician shortage, which may escalate as a large populace-the baby boomers- age and their need for health care increases.

Currently the price of education is growing at an alarming rate (see California) In the past physicians knew ultimately their prospective earnings would cover whatever debt they had built up paying for their training. What will happen if, in our rapidity to cut health care expenditures, we destroy the ability of our top students to undertake this path?

Even with the health bill finally signed into law its effect on our health care is not known. By 2014 their will be an increase in the enrollment into health care insurance programs. This increase when, combined with the long term aging of the population, should push demand for services and therefore cost higher. However, no one yet knows what will happen to reimbursement rates from Medicare and this new program. The question is will there be rate a cut of reimbursement rates for different specialties by Medicare and this new program that may conversely become a decreasing factor of the income of all specialties, including Radiology.

Radiology job, Radiology - Mammography job, and Radiation Oncology job

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