Arizona doctor says Obamacare will force him to close shop

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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While it may be years before most Americans feel the impact of President Obama’s health-care bill, a few patients in Scottsdale, Ariz., got a small taste of life under Obamacare last week when they arrived at their Dermatologist’s office only to see a sign with the following taped to the front door:

“If you voted for Obamacare, be aware these doors will close before it goes into effect.” The note is signed Joseph M. Scherzer M.D. and includes the following addendum: “****Unless Congress or the Courts repeal the BILL.”

Scherzer, who attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has been a practicing Dermatologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 1976. Reached yesterday at his office, Dr. Scherzer, 63, said he plans to stop practicing before 2014 when the bill’s full impact will be felt because he refuses to deal with the headache of increased government involvement in health care.

“I’m absolutely serious [about stopping practicing] and it’s not just because I’ll be nearing 65,” Scherzer said. “The stress is what would push me out the door. From what I’ve gathered hearing from my friends and peers, most physicians I’ve heard from feel the same way.”

Scherzer said the bill’s emphasis on punitive measures for physicians not following government-prescribed treatment methods under Medicare would increase his anxiety level to the point he would no longer be able to practice medicine. The maximum fine was previously $10,000; under the bill it will now be capped at $50,000. Scherzer said the fine system makes seeing a Medicare patients a difficult and stressful exercise.

“Doctors have actually committed suicide over these things. There’s no insurance to cover it,” Scherzer said, calling the fine system “tremendously complicated and Frankensteinian.” “It’s absolutely impossible to be certain you’ve complied. I feel like when I see a Medicare patient I have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.”

Scherzer said he hasn’t been fined but he was audited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services several years ago and spent months awaiting their findings. CMS never contacted him with the results of the audit, but he later found out that he had not been fined.

“There was just no contact whatsoever,” he said.

He also takes issue with the Democrats’ argument that much of the waste in the health-care system is driven by a profit motive on the part of physicians.

“The point of socialized medicine is to allow the government to budget the percentage of GDP spent on medical care. They don’t want to admit they are rationing care, so they say doctors are ordering too many tests to make money,” Scherzer said, adding that while there are always a few bad apples, the vast majority of physicians are ethical and do not knowingly order unnecessary tests.

While he identifies as conservative, Scherzer said he has avoided politics for the past decade and that he blames the current poor state of the medical industry on both Democrats and Republicans. However, he plans on ending his political hiatus this week: He’ll be attending his first Tea Party in New York City on Thursday night.

“It’s interesting how every time someone has concerns or opposed the bill you hear the Democratic party call the individual or group liars. It’s almost the mantra,” Scherzer said. “They’re providing disincentives to care that are making the practice of medicine repugnant.”

If you know any other physicians considering retirement due to the pending changes to the health-care system, please have them e-mail Gautham or follow him on Twitter