As a practicing internist, I would like to comment upon the state and federal government's existing and expanding penalty and fine system for local hospitals and physicians who treat elderly patients who may require longer hospital stays or readmission. (“Hospital readmission rate is too high,” Sept. 16).

All of the local hospitals do an excellent job in caring for our elderly Americans. This system of fines and penalties has little to do with quality of care issues and more to with coding, compliance and rationing of health-care dollars. Medicare is broke and we face another 20% cut for physicians and hospital in the near future. We also face a shortage of 35,000 primary care physicians by 2020.

Currently one third of practicing physicians will not see Medicare patients and another one third will not see new Medicare patients, with these numbers increasing annually. If things continue in this direction, within five years most doctors and many hospitals will be unable to treat Medicare patients. The new government health exchanges will pay in the range of 10 to 20 cents on the dollar.

Real health-care reform rests not in government regulation or control, but in free-market options such as health savings accounts, opening the purchase of health insurance across state lines and changes in the tax code. These changes create competition and price transparency, which is good for all of us. Remember, the government does not like competition, but it creates the rules to prevent competition. Just ask any physician or health-care executive what an office visit, hospital stay, test or surgery actually costs. The answer is, it costs what the insurance company or Medicare pays. This is the problem, and the reason we have reached such inflated healthcare costs.

Government-run health care is not the solution, it is the problem. This is in part why small local hospitals across this great country of ours are going out of business or are for sale.

Michael E. Klein, M.D.
La Crescenta