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Monday, June 21, 2010

MEDICARE PAYMENT PROBLEMS HURTING TEXAS PATIENTS

Medicare payment checks to physicians are flowing again — but they’re 21.3 percent smaller than they were this time last week as Medicare officials could no longer wait for Congress to figure out how to apply the latest Band-Aid. A TMA flash survey that accompanied our news reports of the latest Medicare Meltdown finds that Texas physicians will take or are considering some very drastic action in response. The chart below shows the preliminary responses to the question, “Regardless of the outcome of the current Medicare payment cut, the ongoing cash flow problems and constant uncertainty over Medicare payments has led my practice to take, or consider, the following steps:”
  • Reduce my total Medicare caseload: 252 (68%)
  • Refuse all new Medicare patients: 210 (57%)
  • Lay off staff: 197 (53%)
  • Refer Medicare patients to the emergency room: 120 (33%)
  • Drop out of Medicare altogether: 117 (32%)
  • Stop seeing existing Medicare patients: 91 (25%)
  • It doesn't matter, I don't take Medicare anyway: 2 (1%)

We will keep the survey open for a few more days, so please share your opinion if you haven’t yet. The U.S. Senate on Friday approved a deal stopping the cuts and raising fees 2.2 percent until Nov. 30. But the House of Representatives had already gone home for the weekend and was not scheduled to resume voting until tomorrow. That led the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which had held Medicare payments since the first of the month, to direct Medicare contractors to begin processing claims dated June 1 and later under the new rates on a first-in, first-out basis. “Washington obviously doesn’t realize the damage they’re doing to our practices and our patients,” said TMA President Sue Bailey, MD.

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