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The doctor is out

Washington Post, December 9, 2008

Policymakers and healthcare experts envision a shortage of family medicine doctors and geriatricians to care for an aging population. Healthcare experts and advocates for the elderly say the problem is partly a reflection of how worried physicians are about changes in reimbursement rates from the federal government. Some physicians say they are afraid of accepting new Medicare patients and discovering later that the amount they receive for treating them will be decreased. Exacerbating those worries are concerns about the slow pace of reimbursement and the paperwork it requires. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission recently reported that nearly 30% of the 2.6 million Medicare beneficiaries seeking a new primary care physician between September 2007 and October 2008 had trouble finding one, up from 25% in 2005.