Medicare Change Resolution Needed Before New Year

Physicians who accept patients with Medicare could face a dark choice in 2012. On January 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services are scheduled to start paying Medicare claims at a 27 percent reduction from 2011 rates.

Issues for Physicians

Congress’s “super committee” has been meeting for weeks to determine ways to address the federal deficit. Health care leaders, including the American Medical Association, had hoped that Medicare reduction would be taken out of budget revisions. However, nothing has been accomplished yet.

That could mean that doctors will refuse to see new Medicare patients after the New Year. A recent article stated that more than half of the physicians in Texas would likely stop seeing patients if the cuts take place.

Unfortunately, those kinds of tough choices were already happening locally, even before the latest round of cuts. WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC reported that in 2010 more than 80 physicians in N.C. stopped seeing Medicare patients, and more than 100 stopped in 2009.

Seniors Need Proper Care

The cost for physicians is often more than the payment that they receive from Medicare, which is even before this latest cut was proposed. So, it is understandable why a doctor might want to stop seeing those patients.

These latest cuts could trigger an even bigger decline in available physicians for local seniors. All patients need proper care, and these cuts will affect millions of seniors both locally and nationwide. AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said this in regards to the budget stalemate:

“The deficit committee had a unique opportunity to stabilize the Medicare program for America’s seniors now and for generations to come,” he said. “Once again, Congress failed to stop the annual charade of scheduled Medicare physician payment cuts and short-term patches, which spends more taxpayer money to perpetuate a policy everyone agrees is fatally flawed.”

As Dr. Carmel mentioned, these cuts have been pushed off before. Delaying cuts isn’t the answer, finding a better solution is. Congressional leaders still have time, although the window is closing, to do just that. Let’s hope they can come up with a plan that serves everyone.

Tony Zizzamia

President, Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services