November 28, 2014

It could soon get harder to find a doctor

The American Medical Association is urging members of Congress to fix Medicare’s flawed method of determining physician reimbursement.

“Come March 1st, unless Congress acts and does something definitive to permanently repeal the methodology by which physicians are paid, there will be a 21% cut across the board for physicians taking care of Medicare patients.”

Ardis Hoven, M.D., AMA Board Chair-elect, says doctors run a business for which they need to be compensated. She says Medicare payments for physicians has not kept up with the cost of delivering that care.

Hoven says there’s already a shortage of physicians, and that number will decrease as Medicare reimbursements decrease.

“What we’re seeing in some parts of the county is as doctors age — they get into their 50s — they are saying it isn’t worth it and they are leaving practice.”

The first wave of baby boomers are moving into Medicare next year, making access to health care even more difficult. Advocates for older Americans, military families and physicians want U.S. lawmakers to repeal the much-despised sustainable growth rate formula.

Without action, Hoven says underpaid physicians will have to turn away patients on Medicare. She says military families’ access to health care would also be threatened, because their coverage under TRICARE is based on Medicare rates.

Hoven says it would cost about $210-billion to fix the payment system right now, but in four to five years, it will jump to $350-billion. She encourages voters to call Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold and tell them seniors and members of the military are at risk.

The current health care legislation in Congress does not address physician Medicare payment reform. The U.S. House has already acted on legislation to rectify this problem, but the Senate a month and a half ago elected not to deal with it (S 1776)

AMA, AARP and the Military Officers Association of America held a press conference in Madison and in four other states.

Jackie Johnson 1:50

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