There isn't the slightest bit of doubt in my mind that your staff writer intended to present a balanced account of the factors causing the 38.5% increase for Medicare Part B premiums starting the first of next year (Part I, Sept. 28). Unfortunately, his story contains an error of commission and an equally unfortunate mistake by omission.
He wrote, "Because doctors' charges to Medicare recipients rose 20% in the 10 months ending in July, Medicare Part B premiums will climb from $17.90 a month now to $24.80 on January, the biggest ever."
Certainly doctors' fees are a factor in the increase and so is the increased amount of services doctors have been rendering. Your writer did not say that physicians' fees for providing care were frozen in 1984 at 1983 levels, kept that way until this year when a 3% increase was allowed. The truth is physician fees have been and by law will remain under tight controls until 1990.
I do not deny that some physicians may be over-testing and over-treating. But I think they are in distinct minority.
The error of omission has to do with a factor that is responsible for nearly half of the Premium B increase. Your writer stated accurately that by law, recipients pay 25% of their Medicare Part B coverage. What he did not say was that during 1986 and 1987, Medicare set premiums below the legal minimum. Consequently and inevitably, a major shortfall developed. To "catch up" Medicare has to hike the Part B premiums enormously.