Doctors shy away from Medicare

Sunday, March 31, 2002

NEW YORK - A significant number of doctors are refusing to take new Medicare patients for the first time because of a recently enacted 5.4% cut in reimbursement to physicians who participate in the program, according to The New York Times.

The Medicare reimbursement rate for doctors is set by CMS annually according to a formula approved by Congress in 1997, which is based in part on changes to the nation's gross domestic product. While doctors have "expressed frustration" with Medicare in the past, the reaction to the current rate cut, which took effect Jan. 1, "appears to be different," The Times reported last month.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 17% of family doctors no longer accept new Medicare patients. Some doctors say the Medicare cuts are "magnified" because private insurers often model their reimbursement amounts after the government rates.

The decrease in physicians accepting new Medicare patients is making it more difficult for the elderly to find doctors "just as the need increases with the aging of the population," The Times reported. HME