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Doctors, faith and helping the poor

The Chicago Tribune published an article on a study concerning doctors who help the poor. I haven’t read the actual article, yet, but I wonder how the “poor” are defined and question the definition of “religiosity” vs. spiritual.

For one thing, I’m not sure how, as a Family Physician, I would separate my patients into poor and not-so-poor. Currently, I work for other doctors, but their patients seem similar to the ones I cared for when I had my own practice, although the trend is away from Medicaid, which pays very little compared to Medicare and private insurance. (Medicaid pays less than the office overhead for the time it takes to see the patient.)

There seems to be a fair mix in the patients that come to our practices through the hospital call lists because they don’t have a doctor. Also, I frequently hear that this patient or that has an agreement with the doc to pay what and when she or he can. I’m also reminded by the staff that the patient is “self-pay.” These patients are “coded” or charged as little as we legally can without committing the felony offense of insurance or Medicare fraud. (The law says we can’t charge less than we would charge a Medicare patient and we can’t charge a “discounted” rate without risking charges of fraud. There is a little bit of lee-way, however, in calculating the risk, history necessary, etc.)

The study, based on a mail survey of more than 1,100 American physicians, found that 31 percent of doctors who described themselves as religious reported that they serve primarily poor or uninsured communities, compared with 35 percent of doctors who had no religious affiliation.

Those two figures were statistically equal, but other comparisons showed that doctors were more likely to treat underserved populations if they considered themselves highly spiritual, felt that their religious beliefs influenced their medical practice, or said they were raised in a family that encouraged service to the poor.

How do you determine “religious” if not by those who “considered themselves highly spiritual, felt that their religious beliefs influenced their medical practice?”

BTW, I’ve been away while studying for and taking my every-7-years American Board of Family Physicians National Boards. I won’t know the results until mid-September, but at least there’s no dead lines looming ahead of me for a while. Yeay!!!

About bnuckols

Conservative Christian Family Doctor, promoting conservative news and views. (Hot Air under the right wing!)

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