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Solo medical practioners may become a thing of the past. The reason may not be one of free choice. More and more doctors may be forced to merge into larger group practices due to mounting government regulations and bureaucracy.

This rising sea of red tape is a reflection of America's ailing medical delivery system.

Large group practices are becoming more commonplace both in Cape Girardeau and in larger cities. That trend alone is not worrisome. But the growing paperwork and bureaucracy allows doctors less time to heal patients. The paperwork also adds to the already rising cost of medical care, as doctors need more staff just to handle mounds of forms and regulations.

Government carries a lot of the blame as Medicare and Medicaid paperwork continues to escalate. Coping with insurance forms can also be burdensome.

These administrative chores make a group practice more desirable. That's what Dr. James Dzur, who is in internal medicine and endocrinology, has discovered. He's leaving a solo practice in Cape Girardeau to join a 27-person group in Nampa, Idaho. It's a shame that regulations have stifled this doctor's solo practice, and contributed to his decision to leave town.

Dzur points out that government has really pushed out the solo practioners. As a result, there are fewer people going into such priority care medicine as family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine.

Our medical community is important to Cape Girardeau. The region's economy hinges on its continued good health. That's why we should all be concerned about the growing requirement of medical paperwork.

Granted, these are not the only medical headaches our country faces. The issues of access and skyrocketing costs must be dealt with. But as Congress and state legislatures consider improvements to the medical delivery system, the unwielding bureaucracy should also be a primary concern. This paperwork drives up the costs, which keeps medical care out of the reach of a growing segment of Americans. We must let doctors do what they do best - care for patients, instead of simply filling out forms.