Doctors for Seniors May Soon Be in Short Supply
PHOTO: An increasing number of Arizona seniors and others receiving Medicare may have a tough time finding a doctor to treat them.
December 21, 2012
PHOENIX – Just over a week is left for the U.S. Congress to prevent a cut to reimbursements for doctors treating Medicare patients.
The cuts stem from a formula Congress has used for 15 years to determine how much doctors are paid.
This year, a potential 26 percent cut is looming, and Dr. Brian Kessler, a family physician, says it's discouraging to doctors like him who are trying to meet their own overhead costs and turn a profit.
"If you look at if practice costs have gone up, yet physicians are looking at a reduction in their Medicare reimbursements, I think a lot of physicians are not going to opt to take on new Medicare patients."
Kessler and other doctors are pushing Congress to find a permanent solution to negotiate reimbursement rates, and do away with the current formula system that creates uncertainties almost every year.
There have been scattered reports that some seniors in Arizona are already having difficulty in finding doctors who will accept them as new patients.
Kessler points out that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years, which will eventually double the number of people who use Medicare.
"We want to do the best for our patients and when you can't continue to provide adequate services because the cost of providing those services outweighs that, it just makes it more and more difficult."
The cost to fix the Medicare reimbursement problem will only increase. According to Kessler, in 2005, it would have cost less than $50 billion. This year the cost is an estimated $250 billion.