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Another Newspaper Discovers The Medicare Access Problem

June 21, 2010
3:39 pm

Last Friday in this space, we examined the impact public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, with their underpayments for healthcare services, are having on escalating healthcare costs for employers and private payers.

Now, USA Today, in today’s front page headline, is placing a spotlight on another Medicare-related problem.  Seniors are having more difficulty finding physicians who will take Medicare patients, a problem only exacerbated by the current congressional stalemate over Medicare payment cuts.

According to the article, on average, Medicare only pays physicians 78 percent of what private insurers do.  The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Medical Association all say that doctors are limiting their participation in the program.

John Rother, policy director for AARP, fears that this trend will serve to make the current shortage of primary care physicians even worse.  He said this is a problem becoming increasingly visible in states like Illinois, North Carolina and New York.

We’re increasingly seeing the perils of an overreliance on public programs for coverage.  Whether it’s cost-shifting to private payers, making healthcare more expensive for millions of Americans, or a reduction in access due to providers being unable to accept low reimbursements, the evidence is mounting that payment reform is essential to achieving a sustainable, workable healthcare system.

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