The patient reality of a Medicare payment cut

Dear United States House of Representatives and Senate:

I really hope that you enjoy your Christmas break going back home to your families. While you’re home, I really hope that you will hear from those constituents who will be affected by the 27.4 percent Medicare physician pay reduction that is schedule to take effect January 1st. I really hope that the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, the mainstream media, social media, and other outlets start to cover stories of patients who will lose access to their physicians because of those physicians who will choose to no longer accept Medicare as health insurance.

Did you know that one in four patients seen by Family Physicians are on Medicare? Did you know that for some Family Physicians, Medicare comprises as much as 8 in 10 of their patients? What would happen if your pay was cut by nearly 30%? Oh yeah, I forgot. Government never gets a cut. The Federal Government continues to grow.

I know that you have been doing your political calculations about who will get the blame for the lack of passing a definitive solution. Let me help you out. All of you will take the blame including the House, the Senate, and the President — including the Republicans and the Democrats.

I have talked some of my colleagues and some of my patients, and all of us are very upset about this. Some of my physician friends are really thinking this time about completing the necessary paperwork to stop accepting Medicare patients. How can any business (except government) run with such uncertainty as not finding a permanent fix to the broken current Medicare system. Patients will be unable to see their physicians, resulting in delayed care, increased hospitalization, and illness.

Will I stop taking Medicare patients as of January 1st? I have 10 days to decide. Of course, it would be a bold political statement. But, alas, I’m not a politician. I’m a physician and a healer. I still hopeful, even though it is a diminishing hope, that my prediction will stll come true, and the Congressional Conference committee will come together to hammer out a deal before the end of the year.

In the meantime, I will be educating my patients on this (as of now) political reality of a Medicare payment cut. I encourage my physician colleagues to utilize social media outlets to express our outrage that America’s patients and physicians have become political pawns to try to score political points with the public.

Happy Holidays to the members of Congress and the President. I know that Santa will give you everything that your deserve this holiday season.

Update:

Congress has delayed the Medicare pay cut for 2 months. Then, the cycle begins anew.

Mike Sevilla is a family physician who blogs at Family Medicine Rocks

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