Wouldn’t you have thought that at the very last minute, that Medicare would be spared from having the 2% reductions?  Did you hold your breath at the eleventh hour?

Starting yesterday, April 1 (not an April Fool’s joke and no one’s laughing) healthcare providers will experience a 2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement.  This translates to a shortfall of $11 billion in payments for Medicare annually.  Great for the government budget, not so great for providers or seniors.  This was despite actions of 40 thousand seniors pleading with lawmakers to cancel cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, having written, called and meeting with their Congressional representatives.

Freedom Works, a conservative political group joined the cause. Almost 100 House members requested delaying the cuts or eliminating them entirely but the government is hell-bent on going forward with the decreased payments.

Strains on Patient Care

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges and 40 specialty doctor groups, strains will be placed on patient care and medical research in teaching hospitals.  As a doctor who worked in a teaching hospital for a time, I can tell you, there has always been a strain on manpower and patient care.  Adding additional stresses will be catastrophic for people entering into the system. Some hospitals have already taken measures to survive the loss of revenue by decreasing hospital staff.  An example is New York’s Faxton St. Luke’sHealthcare system which did away with 10 positions.

Representatives of hospitals and healthcare groups are urging lawmakers to stave Medicare payments and focus on better ways to utilize the declining healthcare allocations.  The American Hospital ASsociation Board of Trustees explains: “Real improvements in health and healthcare–as opposed to arbitrary cuts to provider payment–have the ability to put our country on a more sustainable fiscal path,”

Stab to EMR Adoption?

Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health IT fears that implementation of health IT will be halted since the cost of a new or improved electronic health record system will be too dear and that providers will no longer be capable of footing the bill, thereby also effecting meaningful use of the record systems.

What is not being vocalized is the underlying problem as I see it.  Every time there is a decline in Medicare payments (which affect the Medicare advantage plan the most), doctors wonder whether they can afford to participate in the program as providers.  They wonder how much more the reimbursements will be slashed.  The doctors (especially the ones in private practice with less than 10 physicians in a group) will view the patient load and see how they can slowly decrease the percent of Medicare patients that they see in their practice.

New patients looking for Medicare providers may be doomed.  At a time when more baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare than ever before, the government is discouraging physicians from accepting it.  How soon will it be before physicians turn the key and walk away from their practice altogether?  How great will Medicare be if there are no doctors to see in the program?  Is this the government’s real intent?

What do you think?  Comment below.  Sign up in the box at the top left of the page so you don’t miss any interesting thoughts that continue.