House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the U.S. Senate’s vote to delay a Medicare reimbursement rate cut last week “a great disappointment,” spraying a dash of cold water on hopes that the House would approve the stay this week.
“The bill Senate Republicans allowed to pass is not only inadequate with respect to physician fees, but it ignores urgent sections of the House bill to provide jobs,” Pelosi told The Hill in a prepared statement. “I see no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate.”
A 21 percent rate cut went into effect June 18, after Democrats failed to win the 60 votes needed to block the rollback, included as part of an overall jobs bill. Late June 18 the Senate approved a six-month stay, meaning a de facto 2.2 percent rate increase.
But even as the Beltway wrangling winds on, increasing numbers of physicians are paring Medicare patients from their rosters. As the Baby Boom generation nears eligibility for the federal health insurance program — nearly 40 million seniors will have enrolled in Medicare by 2015 and 57.5 million by 2020, compared to 41.4 million in 2008 — the American Academy of Family Physicians says 13 percent of doctors did not participate in Medicare last year, up 8 percent from 2008 and 6 percent from 2004. The American Osteopathic Assn. says 15 percent of its members don’t participate in Medicare and 19 percent don’t accept new Medicare patients.
And if the 21 percent cut becomes permanent, the AOA estimated that those numbers would double. The American Medical Assn. cited a survey of 9,000 members that found that 17 percent restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice. Among primary care physicians, the rate is 31 percent.