This week, like many doctors in primary care, I was sent a request by the Social Security to provide "medical evidence" that one of my patients was disabled so they could collect Social Security benefits. As part of that request, I was asked to provide evidence since June 6th, 2007, that my patient qualified for disability on the basis of "alledged" diagnosis of "Heart Disease."
I was asked to send "copies of records or a narrative report including diagnosis, medical history, laborary findings, treatment and response to treatment." Beyond this, I also had to include physical and emotional impairment assessments and a functional assessment of their ability to sit, stand, walk, lift carry, handle objects, hear, speak, travel, and wash their car, view films, and eat bon bons (well, kind of).
And for this copying, writing, mailing, collating what might I see from the government to compensate my time? Well, if I attach this invoice that requires a Federal Employee Identification Number filed through form W-9 available at www.irs.gov (yes, Virginia, this compensation is taxed), I might receive...
...drum roll, please...
... twenty dollars.
Now looking up the lowest paygrade of Social Security worker's annual compensation of $29,726 and accounting for the 13 vacation days, 13 paid sick leave days, and 10 federal holidays they get paid, I estimate the least expensive Social Security employee makes a bit more than $16.50 an hour.
If we assume that the paperwork they just asked for takes about 2 hours collectively of office staff and doctor time, I think it's clear that doctors' payment for this service provided on behalf of our patients is substantially less than what the Social Security administration pays their own staff.
I wonder what else the government has in store for us.