The New Year may bring new hurdles for Georgia seniors looking for health care.
That's because more doctors are limiting the number of Medicare patients they accept, leaving elderly patients out of options, unless Congress acts soon.
A wave of aging baby boomers will soon join the estimated 1.2 million Georgians currently on Medicare, but fewer doctors are taking new Medicare patients, according the American Medical Association.
“They're going to find it much harder to find a physician that will accept the low payments that Medicare is giving, because they can't afford to,” American Medical Association Chair Dr. Robert Wah said.
The payment formula used to fund Medicare has come up short for the past decade, forcing congress to pass short-term fixes to avoid cutting reimbursements to doctors. But doctors are getting tired of the threat of cuts, so more are choosing not to accept new Medicare patients.
“Physicians are dedicated to their patients. They want to take care of their patients, so they'll probably stay with their current patients, but the new patients will have trouble,” Wah said.
While the American Medical Association wants to see the government come up with a better funding formula, critics of Medicare want it dropped altogether. Instead, they want to see the government provide seniors with vouchers to let them handle their own health care.
“We will improve health care only if and only to the extent that the federal government backs away from micromanaging the health care sector,” said the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon.
The current Medicare fix runs out at the end of February. Unless Congress acts, Georgia doctors will lose an average of $31,000, according to the American Medical Association.