In a Heritage Foundation piece published this week, author Robert Moffit captures well the context in which Medicare beneficiaries are losing access to providers under the President’s government takeover of healthcare law (as detailed in numerous previous editions of this newsletter, e.g., here, here and here).
“Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA)…Medicare beneficiaries face major premium increases, higher drug costs, and guaranteed reductions in access to care resulting from payment reductions to hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, even hospice care. Deeply flawed Medicare payment systems are also on automatic pilot to cut reimbursements to physicians. Medicare provider payments are on a downward slope toward Medicaid reimbursement levels, meaning that many Medicare patients, just like Medicaid patients today will have serious trouble finding providers who will take care of them.
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“[A]ccess to care for newly retired persons has been a growing concern. In 2008, for instance, 45 percent of medical providers in Oregon decided against taking new Medicare patients even as the American College of Physicians says that rapidly aging Americans will need a 40 percent increase in primary care by 2020. Under the PPACA…Part A Medicare reimbursements will be relentlessly reduced, even to Medicaid levels. This guarantees reduced access to care, a problem aggravated by the rapidly emerging physician shortage.” (citations omitted)
In addition, the public’s concern about Medicare was reinforced this week in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly health tracking poll for November. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the Medicare program will be worse off or will experience no difference under the health reform law compared to only 22 percent who believe the Medicare program will be better off. When asked specifically about seniors (65+), 57 percent said seniors will be either worse off or will experience no difference while only 32 percent believe seniors will be better off under the law.
The precipitous declines in “better off” responses since the Kaiser poll first asked these questions is worth noting. In September of 2009, 46 percent of respondents said seniors would be better under the (future) law. Now? Only 32 percent believe so; a 30 percent decline. In August of 2009, 38 percent of respondents said the Medicare program would be better off under the (future) law. Now? Only 22 percent believe so; a 42 percent decline. And even among the 37 percent of respondents who have a favorable opinion of the law (44 percent unfavorable), only 2 percent (0.74 percent overall) suggest helping seniors is the main reason for their favorable opinion of the law.
Together the Heritage paper and Kaiser poll results point to a conclusion that the Medicare program under the current Administration is not serving its beneficiaries as well as it could and in increasing numbers the public is realizing the President’s government takeover of healthcare law won’t make the situation any better.