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For Medicare Patients, “The Doctor Is Out”

In a last-minute shocker, the Senate voted Thursday against postponing a scheduled 21-percent cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians and other healthcare providers. Sixty senators were needed to end filibuster debate and stop the cuts under Senate rules. Fifty six voted in favor, while 40 opposed. There was no Republican support. (And, of course, no support from Senator Lieberman, who is a Republican in disguise.)

Another consequence of the vote is that tens of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits would not be eligible for more. In addition, new taxes on wealthy investment managers would not be imposed, along with an increase in liability taxes on oil companies, leading Democrats to contend that Republicans were protecting Wall Street and the oil industry, according to the New York Times.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader. “We know the American people only have us to depend on.”  

Medicare has been holding all claims from June until today, pending the action that was “supposed” to reverse this 21-percent mindblowing decrease. Now that the vote is in, they will pay the claims retroactively at the lower rate.

This is really bad news for seniors. Thirty one percent of primary care physicians surveyed by the American Medical Association (AMA) said they would not accept new Medicare patients if the cuts went through. I predict much worse. A 21 percent cut is the death knell for doctors who have a lot of Medicare patients. Last month Medicare paid me $84.00 for a 99213 office visit. That was already unsustainable and the only way anyone stays in business is by seeing other patients with better payment. The new payment will be $66.36. Hello bankruptcy court.

Stay tuned for an outcry from organized medicine and a flight of physicians away from the Medicare program. The payment volatility of these government programs is leaving the health of our nation in critical condition.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*


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