Medicare Access Already a Problem; Medicaid Bad Sign for Future
It doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict what will likely happen if Medicare physician benefits cuts are not blocked next year: Medicare beneficiaries will suffer. The Path to Prosperity recommends a 10-year “Doc Fix” in the form of a reserve fund that does not add to the deficit.
Access is already a problem. A recent survey of doctors reveals nearly a third of primary care physicians restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice mainly on account of low and unreliable government payment. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that more than 12 percent of its doctors simply don’t accept Medicare patients, up from 8 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2004. Even the president of the New York Medical Society no longer takes Medicare patients.
And the potential impact on access of much lower reimbursement? Access for Medicaid beneficiaries is not a good sign. Years of inadequate payment rates, below the cost of care at times, have contributed to widespread access problems for both primary and specialist care:
Just this month the New York Times reported “Children on Medicaid Shown to Wait Longer for Care” and “As Number of Medicaid Patients Goes Up, Their Benefits Are About to Drop” referring to anticipated changes when nearly $90 billion in extra Medicaid money for states in the President’s “stimulus” package runs out tomorrow.
Now consider the CMS Actuary confirms Medicare rates for physician services will drop well below Medicaid’s rates as detailed in the graph below.
So if the Texas Association of Health Plans is correct when it predicts “further Medicaid fee cuts could set off a doctor stampede," what will doctors do if nothing is done to protect Medicare from the fallout of President Obama’s and Democrats’ government takeover of healthcare?
What comes after stampede?
Former CBO Director Douglas Holz-Eakin on whether the many of personal struggles with Medicaid access described in a recent New York Times story will happen for Medicare recipients.
Medicare's trajectory is dangerous to the economy, the federal budget, and especially beneficiaries. Unless there are reforms, providers will increasingly be unable to meet the costs of Medicare services. We have already seen this movie. It is called Medicaid, a broken program that traps low-income Americans in a health ghetto of inadequate care. Seniors will be unable to find a doctor, get the care they need, and suffer needlessly because of the unwillingness of liberals to acknowledge the need for reform.