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Medicare doctors facing cuts due to Sequester

Medical Care through Medicare may be more difficult to find

Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for the aged (65 years of age and older), younger adults who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD) is facing higher costs but payments to doctors will be cut due to spending cuts which were triggered Friday by the sequester.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, payments to health care providers health care plans and drug plans will be reduced by 2% starting April 1. Doctors will now be reimbursed 98 cents on the dollar and overall payments will be reduced by $11 billion for doctors, hospitals and other providers in 2013.

This cut might have been inconsequential if payments for doctors had kept pace with the cost of providing care to the growing number of seniors and disability recipients. According to Jeremy Larazus, president of the American Medical Association, payments have only increased 4% over the last several years, while the cost of providing care has jumped 20%.

Patients have difficulty finding doctors who take Medicare

What has been the result? Over the last several years there have been increased reports of patients who have been unable to find doctors willing to take them as a patient. Decreasing the payments to doctors even more and the problem of accessibility will continue to worsen.

Medicaid, which is another governmental insurance program for low income individuals, has faced similar issues. Many doctors have stopped seeing Medicaid patients altogether due to the low reimbursement rates. Many doctors also think this could be the new trend for Medicare patients as well.

Doctors complain the issue is simply keeping their practice profitable. According to some doctors the low reimbursement rates make it difficult to run their business. Smaller practices may be hit the hardest, especially those in rural areas. Many of these offices complain that they run their practice on “razor thin margins,” and any type of cut will force them to make a choice they don’t want to make: Do we keep seeing the elderly or do we keep our practice afloat?

Why couldn’t a deal be reached to avoid Sequester?

We have a stalemate in Washington and leading up to the deadline it was clear neither party was going to be able to seriously address the federal debt which now exceeds $16.5 trillion. Although the White House finally acknowledged that the immediate effects of the cuts would not be felt, they argued the impact of the cuts will build up over time. Obama describes the effect on the economy as a “tumble downward.”

Many Americans, although unhappy about how the cuts were made, feel it is time for the government to cut the waste. What many don’t acknowledge is that real cuts will have to eventually be done on entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Social Security Disability benefits if America wants to seriously address the current financial crisis of the United States.
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