Medicare Reimbursement Cuts
Call or email your congressman now.
17 Days Remain Until Largest Pay Cut in Medicare History
Call your Senators – Tell them to go back to Washington, DC and do their job!
FACT: Only 17 DAYS remain until the largest reduction in reimbursements in Medicare history goes into effect; yet Congress plans to adjourn for the year in a matter of days.
FACT: Over the past 348 DAYS Congress has enacted laws renaming 48 post offices; yet has failed to enact legislation protecting Medicare beneficiaries' access to physician services.
FACT: For the past SIX YEARS Congress failed to enact legislation to reform the Medicare physician payment formula; and the motivation is lacking again this year – it takes you to compel action.
FACT: More than 7,900 BABY BOOMERS turn 60 each day; many of whom won't be able to find a physician when they are 65.
ACT NOW: Call your Senators and tell them to GET BACK TO WASHINGTON and NOT COME HOME UNTIL THEY HAVE DONE THEIR JOB and ENACTED LEGISLATION THAT PREVENTS A 10.1% CUT IN MEDICARE PHYSICIAN PAYMENTS.
Unless Congress acts in the next 17 days 10.1% cuts in Medicare reimbursements go into effect. For the average family physician throughout the U.S. this means a direct 10.1% cut in their salary. While other jobs get a cost of living increase physicians get a decrease, yet all of their costs are going up. It costs more for their power bill, it costs more for their nurses, it costs more for their gas to get to work, it costs more to put clothes on their children, it costs more to fill their office with supplies. Congress "promised" that they would address this issue this year. Since then they have just ignored the issue. They see it as an easy fix to the "cost" of medicine issue. Cuts in Medicare reimbursement forces physicians to refuse to accept new Medicare patients because they simply cannot afford to treat them. That Medicare patient could be your grandmother, father, aunt, and someday you.
Currently one of my professors, is now a professor and not a practicing physician, because she literally hit the point that she might as well have been "paying" her patients to come see her. By the time she paid the power bill and her nurse it cost her more per hour than what she was being reimbursed. She saw 40 patients a day, 5 an hour, she was "booked" it was not an issue of not enough demand for her services. It came from the fact that Iowa's reimbursement is among the lowest in the nation. Some of you are probably thinking, "why didn't she charge more?" Medicare reimbursements are set by the government and cannot be adjusted. Typically private insurance follows Medicare but can be negotiated to some degree, especially if you can band together a group of physicians. However that is not an option for the typical rural family physician.
There is a nationwide shortage of primary care doctors for a reason, the reimbursement simply makes it a poor career choice. I know many of you are thinking, "but doctors are rich." Many of the physicians of today are doing pretty well. However, the nationwide average salary for family physicians is $155,000 or just over $12,000 a month. The medical students of today are paying record interest rates. Students from just two years prior to my class were allowed to consolidate loans at rates as low as 1.9%. My class is at 6.8% and current legislation prevents that from being reduced (I went and spent some time in our financial aid office and they told me there is no way to change that based on current laws, I won't pretend to have any clue about the actual law). Graduate student loans do not get many of the same benefits that are offered on undergraduate student loans. Here at DMU we pay $52,000 a year for school. Most of the students are looking at graduating with over $200,000 in student loans. My friend who also has some undergraduate student loans (most do), had the financial aid office calculate his loan payback. It came to $6000 a month for 15 years. A total payback of $1,080,000, for $250,000 in loans. Take the $12,000 a month income of the average family physician, subtract $6000 a month for loan payback, taxes, malpractice insurance, and notice that not much is left over for the first 15 years. Add that to the fact that by the time a doctor finishes his residency he will be 32ish, I'll be 34 or 36 depending on what I choose, that puts me at 50 years old before loans are paid for if I go with the 15 year plan. Depressing. Many of you know that I would love to go back to Idaho to practice in family medicine. I really would, but I also find orthopedic surgery fascinating and it's hard to pass that up when salary becomes such an issue.
Now for the good news. Most of us here in my class are here because we find this stuff fascinating and kind of like it. So it isn't "all about the money." I'm not writing this to whine about the money issue. The problem is that it creates a healthcare issue if there aren't primary care doctors, and there won't be unless changes are made. It will be a problem that affects all of us. My friend was recently having some neck problems, he called two of the family physicians here at the school. One is booked through January, the other is booked through March and is refusing any new patients. More and more doctors are going to be in a similar situation. That is BAD for everyone. If people can't get basic primary care then expensive chronic problems are not found and treated early. More and more graduates are choosing to specialize, for a good reason. They want to get something back in exchange for the extra 7 to 12 years of school (in addition to undergrad), the lost sleep, the ridiculous amount of studying, the endless hours at the hospital, or on call, and the extremely late start on life.