Accepting Medicare is becoming increasingly unsustainable for physicians, which has resulted in many practices refusing to take new Medicare patients, or even to shutter their doors. At the same time, millions of additional Americans are projected to rely on Medicare in the coming years. With a 3.37% reduction to Medicare imposed at the start of this year, the American Medical Association (AMA) says that reforms are needed to protect millions of Americans’ access to their physicians.
“After three consecutive years of Medicare cuts, physicians and patients are at a crossroads. Physicians have faced reductions in Medicare payments each of the past four years on top of steeply rising practice costs and the burdens of nearly four years of COVID-19. Continuing down this road is unsustainable for many physicians, particularly those in smaller private practices,” says Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, president of the AMA.
An AMA analysis of Medicare Trustees data finds that Medicare physician payments increased by just 0.4% a year between 2001 and 2023. Meanwhile, the cost of running a medical practice—including office rent, employee wages and insurance premiums—went up by 47% during that same period. Today, physicians are the only Medicare providers who do not receive an annual inflationary update, hindering their ability to adequately pay staff, purchase new equipment and invest in their practices.
Struggling physician practices nationwide have already been forced to make such tough choices as refusing to accept Medicare, absorbing their practices into larger companies, and even shutting down operations entirely. As a result, some Medicare patients—like Dr. Ehrenfeld’s own parents, who recently struggled to find a new physician—will increasingly be left without access to high-quality care, with the largest burden on rural and underserved areas. New cuts will erode this access even further.
“Congress has the power to prevent these cuts and save patients’ access to their physicians,” says Dr. Ehrenfeld. “The Preserving Seniors’ Access to Physicians Act of 2023 is a bipartisan legislative fix that will completely eliminate the cuts. I urge everyone to visit FixMedicareNow.org and contact their member of Congress. Tell them to pass H.R.6683, and protect Medicare patients.”
To learn more, visit FixMedicareNow.org.
Through reform, advocates say that the Medicare system will better meet the needs of patients and physicians, and safeguard access to high-quality care.
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