California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Number of Physicians Opting Out of Medicare Nearly Tripled

The number of physicians who have opted out of Medicare has nearly tripled since 2009, according to CMS, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to CMS, 9,539 physicians who previously had accepted Medicare opted out of the program in 2012, compared with 3,700 who opted out in 2009. Further, a similar study by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that 81% of family physicians accepted new Medicare patients in 2012, compared with 83% who did so in 2010.

Physicians have noted several reasons for opting out of Medicare, including:

  • Low reimbursement rates;
  • Displeasure with the government's increasing involvement in medicine; and
  • Concerns about patient privacy.

Some physicians have said that Medicare's reimbursement rates -- which can be as low as $58 for a 15-minute office visit -- mean that they have to see as many as 30 or more patients per day. Jeffrey Cain, president of AAFP, said, "Family physicians have been fed up for a long time and it's getting worse."

Fewer Docs Accept New Medicaid Beneficiaries

Meanwhile, the CMS report found that even fewer doctors are choosing to accept new Medicaid beneficiaries. A study published in the journal Health Affairs this month found that 33% of doctors did not accept new Medicaid patients in 2010 through 2011.

Effect on ACA

Health experts do not believe the increasing number of physicians choosing to opt out of Medicare and Medicaid services will hurt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. However, they say some U.S. residents might have a difficult time finding physicians who will accept their new benefits or face long waits for appointments with those who do (Beck, Wall Street Journal, 7/28)

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