Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vaccines Save Lives and Money

Jason V. Terk MD
Senior Consultant
Cook Children's Physician Network

This week, I am traveling to Austin to give a lunch talk at the Texas Medical Association building to a group of legislative staffers about vaccines. Usually, my talks involve the specifics of one or several diseases along with why we need to vaccinate against them. This presentation, however, will focus more on the economics of vaccines; in the last few legislative sessions and in the one upcoming in 2013, nothing matters more than how much a particular program or idea costs. Each of the last several biennial budgets has been greatly affected by shortfalls from the previous years. This has resulted in cuts to some very important programs that prevent illnesses and save lives.

So, we find ourselves having to articulate what would seem to be fairly obvious: The money we spend on vaccines not only saves lives but also results in savings to the state and our economy. These savings truly dwarf the costs to provide the vaccines.

We will also illustrate that it is becoming increasingly costly and financially risky for physicians to continue to perform this valuable mission for public’s health. We are facing ever-decreasing margins on the payments not only for the vaccine products we provide but also for the fees paid to cover the service of administering the vaccination to our patients. In Texas, physicians must also pay a 1-percent business franchise or margins tax on annual gross collections over $1 million. It is not difficult for a busy pediatric practice to exceed this number in gross payments because the cost to purchase these vaccines and provide them to our patients is so high compared with only a decade ago.

Private physicians perform the lion’s share of vaccinations for the public at our own financial risk. This system is in danger of breaking down if physicians lose money doing so. Eliminating the applicability of the margins tax on vaccines will preserve the ability of physicians to continue performing this important mission of public health. . Our own public health infrastructure could not remotely absorb the volume of patients needing vaccines if physicians stopped giving them in their offices.

So, we must remember that out of all the thousands of types of medical services provided to patients, vaccination is the only one given to an individual that benefits the rest of society. Hopefully as more policymakers and their staff value and appreciate this, we will see renewed commitment in 2013 to sound public health policy resulting in a more stable workforce and economy.

1 comment :

David Fleeger MD said...

Well done Dr. Terk. I hope the legislative staffers are listening.
David Fleeger MD

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