Medicare Pay Irks Physicians, Leaves Some Patients Stranded
Doctors' payments through the Medicare program are scheduled to be lowered by 21 percent in March, prompting some physicians to drop Medicare patients or refuse taking on new ones, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Medicare has planned payment cuts for nine years, but Congress has acted to prevent cuts from going though, often at the last minute. One Columbus resident lost her gynecologist, and has not yet found another because of the cuts (Hoholik, 1/12).
The pending health overhaul legislation would separately increase physician pay in some states which have traditionally had lower reimbursement rates, The Des Moines Register reports. That move comes to the dismay of Iowa doctors, who have long fought for such a change for themselves and similar states, but will not benefit from proposed law. Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming would receive the pay hikes (Leys, 1/12).
In Pennsylvania, hospitals are looking forward to legislation that "would extend payments under the Medicare Wage Index Reclassification for" one or two years, resulting in higher reimbursement rates for some Scranton-area facilities, The Times Leader reports. Pennsylvania's cadre of federal lawmakers, including Sen. Arlen Specter, a Democrat, has "succeeded in getting more than $200 million for hospitals during the past 10 years" (Lynott, 1/12).
Separately, NBC Nightly News takes an in-depth look at another Medicare payment issue: Fraud. "Officials said Medicare pilferage is so widespread, with so much of it never detected, that no one can accurately say how much it costs American taxpayers. But a figure widely used by law enforcement officials suggests a staggering $60 billion a year is stolen from the national entitlement program" (Potter, 1/11).