Medi-Cal, Medicare Payment Reductions Could Affect Physicians’ Willingness To Participate in Programs
Recent cuts to physician reimbursement rates for doctors treating Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries in Sonoma County have raised concerns that fewer doctors will accept such beneficiaries, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
As of Jan. 1, Medicare reimbursements were reduced by 4.4% and Medi-Cal reimbursements were reduced by 5%. However, the Medicare cut could be reversed if Congress passes a spending bill in February that freezes reimbursement rates at the 2005 level.
Sonoma County physicians are reimbursed at the lowest reimbursement level in California, and 60% of doctors in the area will not accept new Medicare patients, according to the Sonoma County Medical Association. About one in five Sonoma County residents are Medicare or Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
Providers say the reductions will make it more difficult for Medicare and Medi-Cal beneficiaries to receive care and will shift patients to overbooked clinics (Benfell, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 1/7).
The 5% reduction in Medi-Cal physician reimbursement rates "is bad public policy and bad for public health," Ted Mazer, president-elect of the San Diego County Medical Society, writes in a San Diego Union-Tribune opinion piece.
According to Mazer, it is "unrealistic and untenable" to ask physicians "to operate at even greater losses to cover the state's unwillingness to properly fund health care." He continues that "Sacramento should cease any consideration of this 5% cut" in order to "maintain, or even improve, access to care for patients" (Mazer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/9).