The Frederick News-Post, Thursday, May 22nd by Ike Wilson, News-Post staff.
The Frederick County Medical Society recognized two local physicians Wednesday for their service to the community and announced two proposals to help close health care gaps.
At the annual Laughlin Foundation Dinner at the Red Horse Restaurant in Frederick, Dr. John Vitarello, president of the medical society, lauded Dr. James E. Bowes and Dr. Julio Menocal as special colleagues who have provided medical care to the poor as well as the general public.
Menocal received a certificate for being an innovative medical practitioner in providing care to people who receive medical assistance, or Medicaid.
Menocal not only created an office that is open and available to all local Latinos, but his efforts are also moving into the area of education as he works to make Wi-Fi available to Latino children who need laptops or Internet access to do their homework, Vitarello said.
Bowes, 94, a former Frederick County health director, was described as someone who has been an outstanding leader in providing public health programs for the poor during his 13-year tenure, including expanding access to obstetrics and gynecology medical services across the county.
“Dr. Bowes is retired, but his interest in the medical community has continued even in his later years, and he remains active with our local society,” Vitarello said.
When he began working in Frederick, Bowes said the school system had only one health care officer.
“When I left, there were nurses in all schools,” Bowes said, adding that he helped make it happen.
Receiving the accolade was exciting, said Menocal, a Cuban native who has a 29-year family practice in Frederick.
“And it’s humbling that my colleagues would think so much of me that they would recognize me,” Menocal said. “My core business is vaccinating children, and we do that well.”
Seventy-five percent of his business involves Medicaid clients, Dr. Menocal said.
The honorees received $1,000 checks each to be donated to a charity of their choice.
The health care system is working, but there are gaps, Menocal said.
Proposals to close health care gap
The medical society will initiate an outreach to Frederick County physicians to provide a poor patient without insurance one medical service per month, Vitarello said.
In the past, patients without insurance have had poor outcomes since they did not have the economic resources to undergo lifesaving medical procedures or receive therapy for their underlying disorders, Vitarello said.
“These patients fall between the cracks in our current Medicare/Medicaid and Affordable Care programs; these are individuals that earn a little too much money to qualify for either of these programs,” Vitarello said.
The medical society president also proposed a Poor Tax Incentive Program that would provide a tax write-off for health care specialists.
“If an individual is seen by a specialist who performs a particular procedure, that practitioner can submit a waiver to the state and receive a tax credit for the payment that is standard by Medicare payment schedule in our region,” Vitarello said.
An example would be a cardiac catheterization, which costs $250, to be written off by the medical provider, he said.
Maryland hospitals received just over $1 billion for uncompensated care, and doctors who treat the uninsured receive no such compensation, Vitarello said.
“It is very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country,” Vitarello said.
The proposal is endorsed by Gene Ranson, CEO of MedChi, Vitarello said, and several others at the society’s annual dinner, including Bud Otis, candidate for Frederick County Council.
The medical society’s proposal is not about giving out money, Otis said, rather, the tax write-off is subtracting money from what the physicians earn.
“I think the County Council should take a good look at it, and this is not just a one-time deal, it’s continuous care,” Otis said.