Earlier this year I wrote about Medicare payment cuts to physicians, which have gone into effect and been reversed 3 times this year already (or is it 4?)
November 30, 2010 the current short-term fix expires – again. As of December 1, doctors face a 23% pay cut, which escalates to 30% January 1.
As I mentioned before, Medicare currently pays about 65 cents on the dollar, with $0.50 of that going for office overhead. If Medicare cuts reimbursement 30%, that lowers payment to about $46 per $100 of office charges, which is below the cost of providing services.
What’s a doctor to do? More importantly, what’s a patient to do?
Clearly, this is unsustainable.
If your doctor loses money every time he sees a Medicare patient, will he have any choice but to make a change? Many doctors are considering just that. Some plan to drop out of the Medicare program altogether, and either see no Medicare patients, or treat them on a cash-only basis. Others are closing their practices altogether.
Anyone living in my area may notice that private doctors are becoming hospital employees. The cost of doing business is just too high. But the cost of seeing a hospital-employed physician is even higher – and patients are complaining.
A friend of mine thinks I’m preaching doom and gloom, so here’s the good news: the American Academy of Family Physicians is fighting hard on the behalf of primary care physicians – and our patients - working for a permanent fix and fair payment.
What can you do? For now, put the pressure on your Senator and Congressman to find a sustainable answer.
In the long run, look at what you can do to cut your spending. Are you on expensive medications when a generic would do? Even if your insurance is paying, in some fashion you, too, are footing the bill. Do you see 10 different doctors? Two or three may be sufficient. If every American saved $100/yr on medical bills, that would amount to over $30,000,000,000 annually, which surely ought to make a difference.
© Cynthia J Koelker, MD – All rights reserved
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