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Spring 2002

To Fellows of NC American College of Surgeons


Dear Fellows,

Some days I vocalize my frustration and sadness at the direction that our health care system is taking. From my perspective, I see patients that want the very best in health care but who want to pay very little for it; I have spoken with members of Congress who promise their constituents more and don't have the revenue to support those promises let alone provide for the legions of new seniors that are added to the roles of Medicare every year; and as a doctor I feel the loss as my services are devalued by our Congress and the American people. Unfunded mandates and threats by governmental agencies has changed our "professional courtesy", my attitude when hiring translators for aliens, and my enthusiasm to hustle into the ER at 2 am to provide free surgical care and consultation. Free care when it is appreciated by the patient and acknowledged by society is a beautiful thing. When it is met with indifference and criticism, my motivation wanes. HMOs "price fix" my services based on the commonly shared Medicare fees and I am supposed to be happy because I am receiving 110% of the Medicare allowable. I am tired of this professional marginalization.


I enjoy operating and I like helping people. I think that most patients respect their doctors but have no clue as to how Medicare really functions, why cost shifting was necessary and why industry's hope to maintain competitive labor costs (HMOs) have failed; and why the responsibility for all of this rests with the United States Congress.


For all of the above reasons I urge each of you to take time to educate your patients about our health care system. They must advocate to Congress for adequate funding for Medicare now and for leadership to address the challenges ahead in providing care for an ever burgeoning elderly population while meeting the needs of the young and the workers of America.


Matt B. Martin, MD, FACS, President






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