Well, we’ve got a little bit of good news for seniors who are in the midst of geting ready to wade through Medicare Open Enrollment Season.
We’re getting word that Senate leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement on a yearlong “doc fix” for Medicare payments to doctors. If the yearlong “doc fix” is approved by Congress, it would be a yearlong delay of the whopping 23% cut in Medicare fees for physicians that is currently scheduled to go into effect on January 1st.
The cuts to Medicare payments to doctors were until recently scheduled to go into effect last week, but were delayed by a one month “doc fix” that passed last week. 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 has been able to intervene and put into place temporary “doc fixes” which prevented similar Medicare cuts from going into effect last year, Congress still has to approve the newly-proposed yearlong “fix” if they want to prevent the cuts from going into effect at the end of the year. Although Republicans and Democrats have agreed to work towards a year-long “doc fix” for the Medicare cuts, 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 ever pass something more permanent? Tell us about it at the MyHealthCafe.com Forums.
- Senate Passes One Month Medicare “Doc Fix,” House Must Still Approve to Delay Medicare Cuts
- Congress Passes the One Month “Doc Fix,” Next Year’s Medicare Payments Still Unknown
- Medicare Cuts Payments to Doctors: What It Means to You
- Medicare Payments for Physical Therapy Still on Hold
- House Approves 6 Month Plan to Avoid Cuts to Medicare Payments