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Are doctors really dropping Medicare patients?

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The recent vociferous fretting by physicians nationwide regarding Medicare reimbursement rates has resulted in threats to drop beneficiaries of the health care program for seniors. However, according to new survey by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare reimbursement rates, so far those threats have not been acted upon by the vast majority of doctors.

The survey of Medicare beneficiaries and private health insurance beneficiaries aged 50-64 found the former group actually had fewer difficulties obtaining medical appointments than the latter. Of respondents who reported needing a new primary care doctor, 79 percent of Medicare beneficiaries say they had had no trouble doing so. While 12 percent of Medicare beneficiaries reported substantial difficulties finding a doctor, 19 percent of private insurance beneficiaries say they had had difficulty.

The media focus on Medicare beneficiaries who struggle to find health care providers apparently belies the truth as evidenced by survey results. The shortage of doctors willing to accept Medicare beneficiaries may be more acute in certain parts of the country, according to Glenn Hackbarth, chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. In those areas, the shortage may be more keenly felt.

Unless Congress moves to amend current legislation, Medicare-participating physicians will face a 25 percent cut in pay as of January 1, 2011.


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