Dr. Lynda Young, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, says that of course the society is happy that the debt-relief deal just struck in Washington is said to protect the beneficiaries of Medicare. But it also reportedly includes a 2% cut for their health care providers, and that, she points out, is the third blow in a row to doctors who treat Medicare patients — and could help limit those patients' access to care.
"We're very concerned about the impact this is going to have on our patients," she said. "In a roundabout way, these cuts are the third in line — number three on the list of cuts, two of which are already in place."
'[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]"There were major places that shut their doors to new Medicare patients. Patients didn't have access, which is a big, big concern for us."[/module] The first is the federal plan to cut the "sustainable growth rate" — a formula for Medicare payments to physicians — by 30% as of this January, she said. And then, although this is further off, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is expected to cut billions more from Medicare payments in 2014. And "Now we have the debt ceiling with the 2% cuts, which would further make it very dififcult for physicians to have practice viability if they have a fair number of Medicare patients."
There are too many unknowns to calculate the total looming cuts to doctors who treat Medicare patients, she said, but clearly the more Medicare patients a doctor has, the greater the problem.
Are we already seeing doctors reluctant to treat Medicare patients?
"Yes, we are in a way," Lynda said. "Because when the sustainable growth rate was going to cause significant cuts, not to the extent of 30% but still significant cuts within the last few years, there were major places that shut their doors to new Medicare patients. Patients didn't have access, which is a big, big concern for us."
This program aired on August 2, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.