Well, it’s sort of good news for seniors who are in the midst of geting ready to wade through Medicare Open Enrollment Season.
The House has approved the one month “doc fix” that the Senate had approved a few weeks ago. The new “doc fix” is a one month delay of the whopping 23% cut in Medicare fees for physicians that was scheduled to go into effect on December 1st. There has been widespread concern that if the Medicare cuts go into effect, Medicare patients will experience a sharp drop in the number of doctors who will be willing to see them and severe shortages in medical treatment.
Although Congress was able to intervene and put into place temporary “doc fixes” which prevented similar cuts to from going into effect last year, Congress still has to approve a more permanent solution if they want to prevent the cuts from going into effect at the end of the year. .Republicans and Democrats have agreed to work towards a year-long “doc fix” for the Medicare cuts, which adds even more to the uncertainty. In case Congress doesn’t reach a longer-term answer for the Medicare cuts this year, here are some things to keep in mind while any answers are being hammered out:
What impact will this have on seniors? Unfortunately, if the Medicare payment cuts go into effect, the most likely effect is that many doctors may begin turning away Medicare patients and/or severely restricting the number of Medicare patients that they take. Recent cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors have resulted in severe shortages in doctors who will accept Medicaid patients in some areas of the country. Although the new rules include payment incentives for primary care physicians (PCPs) and general surgeons in areas with doctor shortages, unfortunately, some expect a similar result for Medicare.
What can you do? Find out from your doctor whether he or she expects to continue seeing Medicare patients if the cuts go into effect. If not, you might consider starting to shop around for a new physician who will still accept Medicare payments. Even if your doctor plans to continuing to see Medicare patients, we think it’s a good idea to make sure that you schedule your appointments as far in advance as possible in case he or she starts cutting back on the time they spend with seniors.
Do you think Congress will be able to pass something more permanent this year? Tell us about it at the MyHealthCafe.com Forums.
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