In just six months, millions of baby boomers are expected to to enroll in Medicare at a time when the number of doctors refusing to take new Medicare patients is at an all-time high. In New York State alone, about 1,100 doctors have left the system. The American Medical Association blames low government payment rates for the sudden change. A 21 percent automatic cut in payments to doctors went into effect on Friday after Congress failed to pass a bill giving doctors a temporary reprieve.
With some areas of the United States already suffering from a deficit of primary care physicians, the AARP worries the trend away from Medicare will only make the problem worse. Some doctors, on the other hand, feel that the government has backed them into a corner. "Physicians are saying, 'I can't afford to keep losing money.'" says Lori Helm, president of the family doctors' group.
According to an AMA survey, 17 percent of 9,000 doctors restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice. The rate is even higher among primary care physicians. "There is going to be a real issue of, how many doctors do we have, is it enough, and do we pay them at rates that are reasonable that they can maintain a livelihood?" says our guest, Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospital.