News of the Day ... In Perspective01/11/2006
California physicians turning away new patients
As Medicare’s 4.4% pay cut is compounded by a 5% cut in Medi-Cal, California Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries are finding it more difficult to find a doctor.
Greg Knoll, an attorney who directs the Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy in San Diego said that he frequently cannot find a doctor for poor patients.
Escondido internist Akber Safi closed his practice in June and opened an import-export business. He said that “Medicare, Medi-Cal and insurance company bureaucracy wouldn’t allow me to do what I’m trained to do—take care of patients.”
According to AMA projections, physicians’ expenses will increase 15% between now and 2011, while Medicare fees are to be slashed by 26%. Medi-Cal fees in California are near the bottom of Medicaid payments nationwide, and HMO payment rates, which often track Medicare’s, are 30% less than the national average.
If Congress overrides the cut, Medicare beneficiaries will have to absorb $3 to $4 billion of the $10.8 billion in restored payments, said Kirsten Sloan, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Retired Persons. She accuses physicians of trying to make a point at the expense of patients’ health (Cheryl Clark, San Diego Union Tribune 1/8/05).