Doctors and other medical services providers have long complained about low Medicare reimbursement rates. As a result of these rates, there has been a steady increase in the rate of doctors deciding to drop out of the program. When Medicare was first passed in the 1960s, it was not uncommon to see signs in the windows of doctors’ offices informing patients that Medicare would not be accepted. So, it now seems, we have come full circle.
Doctors complain not only about the low reimbursement rates but also about the additional requirements that must be satisfied before payments will be issued. A new requirement put in place by healthcare reform that medical records be converted to electronic form may push even more doctors out of the program.
Because of temporary fixes to the Medicare reimbursement rates, which had to make their way through Congress, some doctors have had to wait weeks to receive their reimbursement checks. Doctors in this uncertain position must resort to loans and other stopgap measures to keep their businesses running, while they await reimbursement.
No one is completely sure how many doctors are no longer accepting Medicare patients, but a 2009 survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians, cited in USA Today, found that 13 percent of respondents did not participate in the Medicare program that year, up from 8 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2004.
Patients seeking a participating doctor should visit medicare.gov/find-a-doctor.