During a time of skyrocketing business prices, physicians are expecting another blow in just two weeks: a looming medicare crisis if action is not taken soon.
In Louisiana alone, 600,000 people depend on Medicare, but come July 1st, these elderly and disabled patients can expect less access to care. Orthopedic surgeon and President of the Calcasieu Parish Medical Society, Dr. John Noble, explains, "Doctors who see a lot of Medicare patients will simply not be able to see any more or they will not be able to see the ones they're seeing now because they won't be able to afford to keep their offices open."
The potential Medicare crisis is stemming from a scheduled cut in physician reimbursements by more than ten percent. The cut is calculated by Congress's sustained growth rate formula. "What they've determined," says Dr. Noble, "is that Medicare has to be expense neutral and so what has happened is that as technology has increased, then they have decreased the physician reimbursement side and obviously our expenses are not going down - our expenses are going up."
Dr. Noble and other members of the Louisiana State Medical Society were surveyed about the state of Medicare in Louisiana. The survey found that there is a 23 percent increase in Medicare funding concerns since 1998 and that 59 percent of physicians would begin restricting the number of Medicare patients they treated if payment cuts are imposed.
"Being a physician, I have a lot of Medicare patients," says Dr. Noble, "I am concerned that I will not be able to have primary care physicians taking care of my patients. As the President of the Medical Society, I have to represent my delegation and they tell me they cannot sustain these sorts of decreases in reimbursements."
In Washington, D.C. this week, an attempt to bring a Medicare Payment Bill to the senate floor for debate was blocked. Dr. Noble says for the 40 million patients depending on Medicare for health coverage - and for the physicians providing the services - this is a very serious issue. "This is not just a state issue, it's affecting every one in the country," says Dr. Noble, "and something really needs to be done."
*To let your voice be heard about the impact of Medicare cuts, click here to contact your congressperson.
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