Numerous studies have warned of expanding doctor shortages in coming years especially in the area of primary care. It makes sense, then, that access challenges for Medicare beneficiaries would be a critical component of this shortage; a problem only exacerbated by the massive new coverage dictates in the president’s government takeover of health care law and the Administration’s failure to address Medicare physician payment stability in the law’s 2,700 pages.
A recent post for Health Care System online makes this key connection:
“Another whispered issue that we face is that our most populated generation (Baby Boomers) is quickly advancing to age 65; there are roughly 10,000 individuals turning 65 every day starting back in January 2011 and this number will continue for the next 20 years. As they are advancing towards Medicare we are starting to see physicians turn away from taking patients who are on Medicare.”
Many editions of Medicare on Main Street (e.g., most recently here, here and here) have detailed how physicians are reducing their Medicare numbers often by limiting the appointments of current beneficiaries, not accepting new Medicare beneficiaries, or by opting-out of Medicare altogether.
The Health Care System article explains, “the main cause of this some will argue is that on average physicians are reimbursed at roughly 78% of costs under Medicare and just 70% of costs under Medicaid. Physicians must either make up for this shortfall by shifting costs to those patients with insurance—meaning those of us with insurance pay more—or treat patients at a loss.”
And there’s only so much cost shifting and loss any practice can bear before having to make difficult decisions. The article continues “As a result, more and more physicians are choosing to opt out of Medicare altogether. Roughly 13% of physicians will not accept Medicare patients today. Another 17% limit the number of Medicare patients they will see, a figure that rises to 31% among primary care physicians….”
And with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, as noted above, the timing could not be worse. Of course, it doesn’t help either that the president’s government takeover of health care law diverted over $500 billion dollars from Medicare, hastening the bankruptcy of the program relied upon by America’s senior citizens. The Health Care System article concludes “the largest section of our population is knocking on Medicare’s door right now needing it as their only source of health insurance and there is a rise of doctors no longer willing to see patients on it. This aging population will increase participation in Medicare which will mean a greater demand for physician services and we have a shortage of physicians….”
Unlike the president, House Republicans take on these challenges with a budget that ensures Medicare can fulfill the promise of seniors’ health security for generations to come. Premium support, competitive bidding, and more help for those with lower incomes and greater health needs will ensure guaranteed affordability and improved access for America’s future seniors.