Doctor Pay Cuts Boosts Patient Refusals
The new 21 percent pay cut to Medicare doctor salaries that went into effect just this past Friday is resulting in an increase in patient refusals. This trend is attracting a lot of coverage today. USA Today's Richard Wolf reports:
The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program. Recent surveys by national and state medical societies have found more doctors limiting Medicare patients, partly because Congress has failed to stop an automatic 21 percent cut in payments that doctors already regard as too low. "Physicians are saying, 'I can't afford to keep losing money,' " says Lori Heim, president of the family doctors' group.
USA Today also reported that according to recent surveys done by medical groups, the number of physicians who don't participate in Medicare is growing. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 13 percent of its members don't accept Medicare, an increase from 6 percent in 2004.
These patient refusals will boost an already existing restriction to healthcare in this country. This could be a great story to explore in your community. Should there be a maximum number of patients each doctor participating in Medicare needs to see? What will happen to those refused by Medicare doctors? Where will they find access to healthcare? One reporting resource could be the Medicare and Medicaid Service site for statistics and research data.
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