Two-Thirds Of Practicing Physicians Say Senior Care To Suffer Under Gov’t Plan

IBDEditorials series, "Critical Condition", today focuses on the effects proposed health care reforms will have on seniors.

Will the quality of care for seniors improve under health care reform currently being considered by Congress?  A recent IBD/TIPP Poll shows that a majority of physicians think the answer is no…  

…"I'm not surprised by the results," said Dr. Alieta Eck, an internist in Zarephath, N.J. "It's not possible to cut $500 billion from Medicare and provide better-quality care for seniors."  

While Dr. Gary Kaplan isn't surprised by the results either, he disagrees with them.  "Change is hard and there is a lot about health care reform that is uncertain," said the internist and chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. "But I don't think (worse care for seniors) will happen. I'm quite optimistic about reform as a way to improve care…"  

…The plan currently in the House would reduce Medicare spending by $500 billion over 10 years, while the plan recently released by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would reduce it by $400 billion.  A lot would depend on how reform achieves those reductions…  

…The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says it found that the number of elderly Medicare recipients who had trouble finding a primary care physician rose from 11% to 17% from 2004 to 2007.  

Under the Baucus plan, physicians who practice family medicine, internal medicine, geriatric medicine or pediatric medicine, and who perform about 60% of their services for primary care, will receive a 10% bonus on those services.  But others think the reduction in Medicare spending will inevitably mean reductions in physician payments.  

"As Medicare constantly lowers reimbursement, it will be harder for new physicians to take part," said Eck. "People are telling me that it is already happening in gynecology. Medicare patients can often no longer find a gynecologist for routine care, or they have to wait six months…"

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