Medicare cuts are forcing doctors to charge an annual fee

Here’s a novel way some physician groups are countering Medicare cuts.

Charge everybody an annual fee.

As reported on NPR’s health blog, Shots, a cardiology group in California will resort to annual fees ranging from $500 to $7,500 — which seems like a pretty big range to me. Of course, specialties like cardiology are panicking more than others, since reimbursement cuts for heart studies is scheduled to be approximately 40% or more.

Straight Medicare (not Advantage plans), covers less services than patients think. For instance, telephone calls or e-mail with doctors, along with regular, routine preventive health exams, are not covered.

This forces doctors, who are faced with declining reimbursements, to bring patients into the office for non-urgent matters — like discussing lab results.

Although an annual fee seems extreme, physicians are simply playing by the rules that Medicare dictates. Much of this nonsense can be averted if Medicare would simply placed less emphasis on face to face office visits, and appropriately valued physician-payment communication electronically or over the phone.