With Rate Cut Looming, Doctors Threaten To Stop Accepting Medicare Patients

With a 21 percent Medicare reimbursement rate cut set for Monday, unless Congress acts to block it, some doctors are threatening to refuse new Medicare patients in their practices.

"'To our physicians, we are providing information on their Medicare participation options, including how to remove themselves from the Medicare program,' said James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association, whose more than 250,000 members include doctors, medical students and faculty members," CNN reports. Rohack says temporary delays of the yearly scheduled rate cut should be eliminated. "He said the AMA wants the current law to be repealed and a new formula used 'that more accurately reflects the cost of providing care' in determining Medicare reimbursement rates. … In the meantime, physicians are asking the AMA to prepare handouts they can give patients to prepare them for the worst-case scenario: getting dropped completely. And a new report on the AMA's Web site tells doctors how they can help their patients find other doctors if they decide to no longer accept Medicare."

A survey by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons "found that 65% of its 3,400 members said they are referring their Medicare patients to other doctors. About 60% said they were reducing the number of Medicare patients in their practice" (Kavilanz, 2/25).

WECT News 6 reports that many doctors and nurses in Brunswick County, N.C., "are concerned about drastic cuts in Medicare." Dr. Jugta Kahai of Oak Island Pediatrics says, "There's no question if these cuts are approved its going to be completely devastating for our patients," adding that the cut would mean "I would not be able to maintain my practice" (Hosmann, 2/25).

Meanwhile, the "Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) will officially release its annual report on payment recommendations for nursing home operators and other providers on Monday," McKnight's Long-Term Care News reports. "MedPAC commissioners are expected to recommend a payment freeze for long-term care providers. ... Physicians, hospitals and others that tie in to the long-term care network regularly will learn whether any deviations from preliminary recommendations made in December and January will be handed down. Medicare payments in recent years have been a bright spot for nursing home operators" (2/25).

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