More Doctors Accepting Medicare Beneficiaries, Study Says
The percentage of doctors who accept Medicare beneficiaries as new patients has increased in the past four years, despite a reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change shows, the AP/Boston Globe reports.
HSC's 2000-2001 survey showed that 71.1% of U.S. doctors said they accepted Medicare beneficiaries as new patients. The next year, Congress reduced Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors by 5.4%, followed by increases of 1.5% annually since then. The latest survey shows that 72.9% of doctors are accepting Medicare beneficiaries, with the increase slightly higher among primary care physicians.
HSC president Paul Ginsburg said the survey shows doctors seem willing to accept a one-time reduction in reimbursement rates, adding, "Policy makers should recognize that Medicare fees are only one factor in physicians' decisions to accept new patients."
Congress soon is expected to halt a 4.4% reimbursement rate reduction for 2006, which took effect Jan. 1.
The American Medical Association said a survey of doctors indicated that 38% of physicians would decrease the number of new Medicare beneficiaries they treat if the 4.4% cut went through.
Ginsburg said stable Medicare reimbursement rates do not necessarily translate into less income from Medicare beneficiaries for doctors because physicians can bill Medicare for more services per patient (Freking, AP/Boston Globe, 1/9).
The study is available online.