Cape family practitioner partial to Medicare/Medicaid patients

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Dr. Robert George

The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that nationally 17 percent of family doctors no longer take new Medicare patients. The reason is Medicare reimbursements don't cover the actual costs of treating those eligible for the government program, according to the academy.

Dr. Robert George, a family practitioner in Cape Girardeau since 1996, doesn't disagree with the academy's findings. But he doesn't turn away new Medicare patients.

"Of all the doctors in Cape, I probably have the most Medicare patients," said George, who has an office on Broadway. "I also have a considerable number of Medicaid patients, and some with private insurance."

George said he has a large caseload of Medicare and Medicaid patients "because someone has to take care of the less fortunate."

"I've given free services," he said. "I just think that people who are unfortunate enough to be on the lower economic scale need someone to take care of them, too."

George, 71, who is on staff at both hospitals in Cape Girardeau, said he was once on the lower economic scale. He grew up in a fatherless home in Jackson, Tenn. His mother, a nurse, struggled to support three sons, "and we never had much of anything."

George dropped out of high school after his sophomore year. He joined the military and eventually earned his GED. He decided helping others was his calling, so he attended St. Louis Junior College, Washington University in St. Louis and took medical-related classes at night school at University College, a division of Washington University.

He became a medical technologist and worked in medical labs for 20 years prior to becoming a sales representative for a pharmaceuticals company. He studied chiropractic medicine from 1972 to 1975, and earned a bachelor's degree in chiropractic from Logan Chiropractic College in Chesterfield, Mo.

In 1976, George opened a chiropractic office in Puxico, Mo., a small rural community in nearby Stoddard County. A few years later, he enrolled in the American University of the Caribbean Medical School and studied for two years in Cincinnati, Ohio. He then spent four months of medical school on the island of Montserrat in the British West Indies before doing clinical internships at Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis.

George returned to Puxico in 1983 as a medical doctor and also resumed his chiropractic practice. He opened a second office in nearby Bloomfield. He relocated to Cape Girardeau in 1996 "because I wanted to be near my grandchildren."

George, a pilot, said he is one of two or three physicians in Cape Girardeau qualified as a medical aviation examiner.

Opinionated, George doesn't think much of the federal government's new Medicare prescription drug coverage plans.

"It deprives indigent people of much needed medical services and equipment,". he said. "It's touted as being beneficial for all people but it's not. Medicare and Medicaid need some revamping, but I've seen patients who are denied medication because they don't have money to pay for it.

"The new coverage plans call for enrollment fees, and there are break-off points where it doesn't pay for anything."

But all is not bleak on the medical front, said George. He said advances in modern medicine are staggering.

"Man, we are living in an age of wonderment, and in 2006 we're going to see some new medicines like Byetta and Rimonabant," he said. "These and others will help with obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other problems. This is the time of many advances in medicine."

Meet Dr. Robert George

Age: 71

Occupation: Family practitioner and doctor of chiropractic. He is on the staff at Southeast Missouri Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center. His first medical office was in Puxico, Mo., and he has been in Cape Girardeau since 1996.

Education: St. Louis Junior College, Washington University and University College, both in St. Louis. A bachelor's degree in chiropractic from Logan Chiropractic College in Chesterfield, Mo. Medical degree from American University of the Caribbean Medical School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and on the island of Montserrat in the British West Indies. Clinical internships at Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis.

Personal: Married, one daughter is principal at Alma Schrader Grade School, another daughter in Atlanta area, a son in Arnold, Mo. Hobbies include, flying, hunting, judo and scuba diving.

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