NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The value of the job benefit of medical insurance and the Medicare entitlement for living and working a long time is diminishing. More doctors are fed up with new regulations that pertain to both.
At least one Nacogdoches physician has taken the boldest of all moves. He's becoming a cash-only doctor.
Over time, there have been a lot of changes in the medical field as reflected in the old physician tools displayed throughout Dr. Richard Baker's office. Baker recalls how one patient drew his own conclusion.
"And he said, 'Gosh, I thought you would be on a rocker and 90 years old and barely could walk.' I said, 'No, I just like old stuff,'" Baker said.
The internal medicine physician is unlikely to preserve the current changes associated with Medicare and private insurance. Instead, his practice will be entirely cash only beginning next month. Is he rebelling?
"I guess there's a little bit of that, but at the same time, I think I can do a better job if I get away from Medicare and the insurance companies because it's so difficult," Baker said.
Baker is fed up with having to justify each test or X-ray.
"It is the aggravation factor more than anything," Baker said.
In addition, Baker will no longer admit or care for hospitalized patients.
"What broke my back was new coding systems coming out in the fall where all the medicare codes are completely changing," Baker said. "You have to get a very expensive computer just to keep up with that."
Baker stands to lose 50 percent of his patients. He hopes to make up the loss of income in a staff reduction. Connie Chapman will go part-time, while three other employees will lose their jobs.
"We're gonna miss the patients that leave," Chapman said. "We really, really are because a lot of them have been with him from day one, 33 years."
Baker blames President Barack Obama, but not entirely.
"Our system has been broken for a long time before he came in, but I don't know what the cure is," Baker said.
But the doctor hopes at least he knows the treatment.
"It's going to be a learning curve for the patients and me too," Baker said.
Baker is still keeping his Medicare credentials so he can still order tests and X-rays for his patients. Reimbursements will come through the hospital, imaging center, or labs instead of his office.
Like it or not, there are an increasing number of people signing up for Affordable Care insurance.
The East Texas Community Health Center in Nacogdoches is attempting to make sign up easier. It's opened up a health insurance marketplace office at 212 South Street, right across from the courthouse.