Physicians will be forced to limit the number of
Medicare patients they treat if the 10.5-percent cut in Medicare
payments to physicians occurs on July 1, a sobering
TMA physician survey shows.
"I wish I could report to you that all is well, that one thing
Medicare recipients don't have to worry about is finding a
physician to care for them," A. Tomas Garcia, MD, a member of the
TMA Board of Trustees and president of the Harris County Medical
Society, said at a news conference in Houston in late March. "But
that is not the case."
Among the survey results are:
- The percentage of physicians who accept all new Medicare
patients has declined to an all-time low of 58.1 percent.
- Nearly one-third of physicians have decided to accept fewer
new Medicare patients in the past three years. Only 4 percent are
- For internists and family medicine specialists, who are on
the front lines providing primary care to patients on Medicare,
the situation is even bleaker. More than 45 percent say they have
cut back on new Medicare patients in the past three years.
- Texas physicians will not refuse their current Medicare
patients. Nearly 70 percent say that is something they will not
- But, more than 45 percent are considering accepting no new
- Charity care may be an early casualty of the Medicare funding
crisis. One-fourth of physicians say they already have reduced
the amount of charity care they provide. An additional 17 percent
say they will make that change. Looking to the future, another 28
percent say they are considering reductions in charity care.
"With no real increase in Medicare payments to physicians in
five years, and with constant drama and uncertainty over possible
cuts in those payments, we're out on the edge of the cliff," said
Dr. Garcia, a Houston cardiologist with a heavy Medicare practice.
"And the fall will be a steep and painful one."
Also at the news conference was U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas),
who explained how his new legislation,
Ensuring the Future Physician Workforce Act of
(S 2729), would stop the cut and reverse this dangerous
Senator Cornyn's bill, which is receiving strong support from
TMA, repairs the flawed formula Congress uses to calculate
physician reimbursements and saves seniors' health care.
While physicians face annual cuts, the other key Medicare
providers - hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmaceutical
companies - receive annual cost-of-living increases
because their pay is calculated differently from physicians'
reimbursements. Physicians received between zero- and 2-percent
increases over the last four years, and they face significant cuts
But Senator Cornyn's bill reverses that, fixing the
flawed physician reimbursement formula, the Sustainable Growth Rate
formula. TMA physicians urge Congress to support Senator Cornyn's
new legislation to reverse the dangerous trend so that
Medicare-covered patients are not left without physicians to care
to find out how TMA is working to solve the Medicare crisis.
, April 1, 2008