Elderly To Suffer As Medical Practices Shut Down
Doctors Reject Medicare Patients As The Economy & Regulations Force Bankruptcy & Closure
By Dell Hill
your blessings” is always good advice. Today, I’m doing just that over
the blessing of finding a personal physician who accepted me as a
patient, despite the fact that payment for my medical services is
exclusively through Medicare and Medicaid. Most doctors are simply not
taking Medicare/Medicaid patients because to do so could speed up the
process of going broke.
recently spoke with the senior partner of the medical service that
accepted me as a patient. For obvious reasons, I won’t identify him or
his office, but suffice to say, he’s been in a highly respected practice
for over 25 years and - along with his partner - runs a medical
facility with five additional MD’s.
were lucky”, he said with a smile. “You were still listed in our
database as having been a patient before you moved to Texas and, now
that you’ve returned, you’re still on our list. When I saw your request
I recognized the name and approved you. Otherwise, you’d probably
still be looking (for a doctor)”.
why is this happening? Why are medical doctors closing up shop, filing
for bankruptcy, and not accepting Medicare/Medicaid patients? I wanted
to know, so I asked.
answer surprised me. I’ve never thought of doctors as being poor or
“going broke”. In fact, the opposite is true. I’ve always thought of
doctors as being well-to-do - rich, even. And then I saw this piece
posted by CNN Money and it all started to make much more sense.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Doctors in America are harboring an embarrassing secret: Many of them are going broke.
quiet reality, which is spreading nationwide, is claiming a wide range
of casualties, including family physicians, cardiologists and
watchers say the trend is worrisome. Half of all doctors in the nation
operate a private practice. So if a cash crunch forces the death of an
independent practice, it robs a community of a vital health care
lot of independent practices are starting to see serious financial
issues,” said Marc Lion, CEO of Lion & Company CPAs, LLC, which
advises independent doctor practices about their finances.
list shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, rising
business and drug costs among the factors preventing them from keeping
their practices afloat. But some experts counter that doctors’ lack of
business acumen is also to blame.
to make payroll: Dr. William Pentz, 47, a cardiologist with a
Philadelphia private practice, and his partners had to tap into their
personal assets to make payroll for employees last year. “And we still
barely made payroll last paycheck,” he said. “Many of us are also
skimping on our own pay.”
said recent steep 35% to 40% cuts in Medicare reimbursements for key
cardiovascular services, such as stress tests and echocardiograms, have
taken a substantial toll on revenue.
“Our total revenue was down about 9% last year compared to 2010,” he said.
“These cuts have destabilized private cardiology practices,” he said.
third of our patients are on Medicare. So these Medicare cuts are by
far the biggest factor. Private insurers follow Medicare rates. So
those reimbursements are going down as well.”
is thinking about an out. “If this continues, I might seriously
consider leaving medicine,” he said. “I can’t keep working this way.”
Also on his mind, the impending 27.4% Medicare pay cut for doctors. “If that goes through, it will put us under,” he said.
law requires that Medicare reimbursement rates be adjusted annually
based on a formula tied to the health of the economy. That law says
rates should be cut every year to keep Medicare financially sound.
Congress has blocked those cuts from happening 13 times over the past
decade, most recently on Dec. 23 with a two-month temporary “patch,”
this dilemma continues to haunt doctors every year.
Donegan, senior executive with a hospital cancer center in Newport
Beach, Calif., is well aware of physicians’ financial woes.
are too proud to admit that they are on the verge of bankruptcy,” she
said. “These physicians see no way out of the downward spiral of
reimbursement, escalating costs of treating patients and insurance
companies deciding when and how much they will pay them.”
Read the entire CNN report by clicking here.
Dell’s Bottom Line:
in a nutshell, is exactly what my personal physician told me just a few
days ago. He operates a private practice and his costs of operation
continue to go up while his income for medical services continues to go
down. As he said, “I’d be much better off if I just closed this entire
office down and went back to a ‘one horse’ practice.” Meaning open a
much smaller office and screen out all Medicare/Medicaid patients.
“But, if I did that, I’d be leaving about a thousand people without any
primary care physician and I just can’t do that. This is a small
community, by comparison. These patients are my friends and neighbors.
I can’t just leave them without medical service”.
- when I turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare and Medicaid - I
was indeed fortunate that my long-time primary care giver allowed me
back into his medical practice as a patient, even though he knew that he
was going to lose money by doing so. Now I just have to hope and pray
his practice doesn’t suffer the same serious financial woes of the
doctors identified in the CNN report and he’s forced to shut down.
live in a very rural area and the loss of such a service would be
devastating, to say the least. Thanks to his service, I now see better,
hear better, and will be undergoing a medical procedure for the removal
of another kidney stone very soon. Most especially, at my age, I hate
to think of what life would be like without having a doctor available.