More Doctors Turning Away Medicare Patients

Complain that rates, which were just cut, are too low
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2010 10:09 AM CDT
BOSSIER CITY, LA - JANUARY 29: Pulmonologist Dr. Loyd Whitley examines patient Robbie Roach, 72, who is on Medicare, during an office visit January 29, 2003 in Bossier City, Louisiana.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Medicare rates were cut 21% on Friday—even as more doctors say they’re limiting the number of Medicare patients they’ll see and just 6 months before millions of Baby Boomers flood the program. The American Medical Association tells the USA Today that 17% of doctors surveyed limit the number of Medicare patients they take; among primary care physicians, the number balloons to 31%. Another survey shows 13% of doctors refusing to even participate in Medicare, up from 8% in 2008 and 6% in 2004.

“Physicians are saying, ‘I can’t afford to keep losing money,’” said the president of the group conducting the latter survey. Medicare paid doctors about 78% less than private insurers did in 2008, and that was before Congress allowed an automatic 21% cut to take hold on Friday—though the Senate has already approved a bill to undo that lapse. (Read more Medicare stories.)

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