With physicians facing several Medicare payment cuts totaling nearly 10% at the start of 2022, a new Texas Medical Association member survey quantifies the drastic impact the cuts could have on access to care if Congress doesn’t act to stop the cuts.
If the reductions were to take effect, 62% of Texas physicians say they could be forced to stop seeing any new Medicare patients. What’s more, 59% of physicians polled said they would consider opting out of Medicare altogether; 43% may contemplate retirement; and 42% may even have to stop seeing their existing Medicare patients.
“Among the percentage of physicians considering retirement, more than half (55%) are under 61. These physicians are in the prime of their career and still have many years left to give,” states the TMA report, Physician Response to 2022 Medicare Payment Cuts. “If Medicare payment cuts take place in 2022 and these physicians seek other forms of employment, it would be a tremendous loss to medicine.”
Those are troubling statistics during the COVID-19 public health emergency, when access to care is paramount, especially for susceptible patients like the elderly and disabled covered by Medicare, says TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD.
“These are doctors already reeling from the impacts of a 19-month-long public health emergency. They’re exhausted, and they’ve had to dip into their personal savings and capital to keep themselves and patients safe,” she said. “Physicians need support right now – not a pay cut. Especially not when we’re talking about a sizeable and ever-growing portion of the aging U.S. population in Medicare – folks who are most susceptible to chronic illnesses and infectious diseases like COVID-19 – who could end up without access to a doctor. Not when the pandemic already has exposed deep health disparities and access-to-care problems for racial and ethnic minorities – and for senior citizens.”
The poll of nearly 1,400 physicians also found that some physicians already have taken steps to limit their practice because of the impending cuts, with 8% of respondents saying they already stopped accepting new Medicare patients.
One family medicine physician commented flatly: “Patients will suffer” if payments go down.
“I am overwhelmed by patients who need care. Medicare patients take more time, resources, and effort,” that physician wrote in his survey response. “In some ways, this [payment cut] is hard to stomach as I feel a duty to care for all people regardless of age or payor status. At the same time, if I must make changes to my practice to ensure I continue to stay in practice and provide much needed care to the community, I will have to strongly consider limiting, or stopping, my availability to Medicare patients.”
These impacts – plus the hardships of a pay reduction during a continuing pandemic – are why TMA has launched an advocacy campaign to stop the cuts. Add your voice to the chorus by emailing or tweeting a message through TMA’s Grassroots Action Center.