10% of Family Docs Mull Shuttering Over Medicare Cuts

John Commins, November 29, 2010

More than one in 10 family physicians may close their offices if Medicare slashes payments next year, according to an online survey of American Academy of Family Physicians members who have an ownership stake in their medical practices.

The survey asked family physicians in September about the impact of a pending 23% Medicare pay cut that was scheduled to take effect December 1, but which was subsequently delayed until January 1 by Congress. Nearly 13% of survey's 516 responding physicians said they would consider no longer seeing patients if Congress failed to override the mandatory pay cuts that will deepen to 25% in the coming months.

"This survey demonstrates the serious threat to Americans' access to healthcare that is posed by the current formula for paying physicians to care for the elderly and disabled," said Roland Goertz, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "You can imagine how many more physicians will be forced to close their doors if a 25% or even bigger pay cut goes into effect next year. If you ran a business and knew that up to 30% of your customers were going to reduce your payment by 25% or more, what would your business do?"

AAFP membership data show that Medicare patients comprise as much as 30% of family physicians' patient population. More than one in four patients in rural family physician practices areas depends on Medicare for coverage.

The 2010 survey found that among family physicians who maintain their practices, 62% said they may be forced to stop accepting new Medicare patients, and 73% said they would have to limit the number of Medicare appointments because of the reimbursement cuts.

Goertz said that the impact of the cuts will likely be felt most by elderly and disabled Americans who depend on Medicare, and for military families enrolled in TRICARE. He said to an Oct. 13 AARP survey that showed 81% of AARP members who receive Medicare and 86% of members not yet eligible for Medicare are concerned about the impact of the Medicare physician pay cut on their access to a doctor.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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