KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Doctors Accepting Medicare Patients Decline In Rural Arizona

News outlets report on rural health issues including the decline in the number of doctors accepting Medicare patients in Arizona and the search for low-cost health solutions in Mississippi.

The Arizona Republic reports that a growing number of doctors in rural Arizona are refusing to see new Medicare patients and notes it is a problem that other parts of the country are reporting also. "Medicare, some doctors say, pays too little, and the red tape is too much. ... Medical professionals say the Prescott area may serve as a valuable lesson for the nation as Congress seeks to expand health care: Even if most Americans are covered under some form of insurance, many still may not find a doctor willing to see them." The situation is worsened by the shortage of primary care doctors and the sustainable growth rate payment system, which reimburses doctors less for Medicare patients (Alltucker, 1/24).

The Los Angeles Times reports on Dr. Aaron Shirley, a 77-year-old Mississippi pediatrician who thinks a key to reducing infant mortality may come from Iran: "In May, Shirley and two colleagues flew to Iran for 10 days to study a low-cost rural healthcare delivery system that, according to the World Health Organization, has helped cut infant deaths by 70% over the last three decades. In October, four top Iranian doctors, including an official from Iran's Ministry of Health, visited Mississippi for a week. ... Tensions between the United States and Iran dominate daily headlines, but both governments have given quiet support to the little-known initiative in the Delta" (Drogin, 1/25).

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