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Texas Doctors Fleeing Medicare In Droves

From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas doctors opting out of Medicare at alarming rate

By TODD ACKERMAN
May 17, 2010,

Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

Two years after a survey found nearly half of Texas doctors weren’t taking some new Medicare patients, new data shows 100 to 200 a year are now ending all involvement with the program. Before 2007, the number of doctors opting out averaged less than a handful a year.

“This new data shows the Medicare system is beginning to implode,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Texas Medical Association. “If Congress doesn’t fix Medicare soon, there’ll be more and more doctors dropping out and Congress’ promise to provide medical care to seniors will be broken.”

More than 300 doctors have dropped the program in the last two years, including 50 in the first three months of 2010, according to data compiled by the Houston Chronicle. Texas Medical Association officials, who conducted the 2008 survey, said the numbers far exceeded their assumptions

And yet, according to Mr. Obama, “the sky is still blue, and birds are still singing.”

The opt-outs follow years of declining Medicare reimbursement that culminated in a looming 21 percent cut in 2010. Congress has voted three times to postpone the cut, which was originally to take effect Jan. 1. It is now set to take effect June 1.

We thought Mr. Obama’s ‘healthcare reform’ was going to solve this problem by putting the White House in charge of re-imbursements.

The uncertainty proved too much for Dr. Guy Culpepper, a Dallas-area family practice doctor who says he wrestled with his decision for years before opting out in March. It was, he said, the only way “he could stop getting bullied and take control of his practice.”

“You do Medicare for God and country because you lose money on it,” said Culpepper, a graduate of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement.”

Ending Medicare participation is just one consequence of the system’s funding problems. In a new Texas Medical Association survey, opting out was one of the least common options doctors have taken or are planning as a result of declining Medicare funding — behind increasing fees, reducing staff wages and benefits, reducing charity care and not accepting new Medicare patients

The growth in Texas Medicare opt-outs began in earnest in 2007, when 70 doctors notified Trailblazer Health Enterprises, the state’s Medicare carrier, they would no longer participate, up from seven in 2006. The numbers jumped to 151 in 2008, fell back to 135 in 2009 and are on pace for 200 in 2010. From 1998 to 2002, by contrast, no more than three a year opted out.

Now, according to a Texas Medical Association new poll, more than four in 10 doctors are considering the move.

By the way, our headline: ‘Texas Doctors Fleeing Medicare In Droves,’ was the original headline for this Houston Chronicle article. 

It’s always curious the way news editors try to tone their stories down.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

13 Responses to “Texas Doctors Fleeing Medicare In Droves”

  1. canary

    I just saw on Fox, the % of cuts on medicare pay towards doctor and it was staggering. Obama wants old people dead before next election.

  2. Rusty Shackleford

    And that’s just the beginning.

    If this gets fixed, if it ever gets fixed, there will be a good twenty-year gap in capable doctors to administer competent medical care on all levels, from pediatrics to senior care.

    I respect the Texas doctors for their actions and it speaks much more loudly than dipshit and his magic baritone.

    But, in keeping with his spoiled brat mentality, it will not dawn on him that he’s the root problem and find some other mechanism(s) to blame for it couldn’t be his fault. After all, he said so.

    • proreason

      Don’t worry Rusty, plenty of newly legal Mexicans will be supplementing the doctor workforce in the near future….in addition to the ex-rappers and retired sex-workers looking for new careers.

  3. NoNeoCommies

    Way to go Texas!!!!!!

  4. bousquem

    Medicare slashing reimbusement rates for doctors and other health care providers, like pharmacies, are driving alot of places to not accept medicare or close their doors. Speaking from personal experience of working for an independent in NY, the store I worked at as an intern had to close down because the state is basically not paying. You can’t stay in business if you are loosing money on every prescription you fill and just about all you customers have medicare or medicaid. I don’t blame the doctors for not taking medicare if they aren’t getting paid enough to cover their expenses let alone turn a profit. Medicine has become a field of very high libability, high malpractice insurance premiums, and decreased salaries. What is even scarier is when Obamacare kicks in with full force and socialized medicine/single payor gets crammed down our throats by the left, then the physicians won’t be able to charge more than what the goverment sets for their “fair price” which will be so artificially low it won’t be funny.

    • proreason

      “I don’t blame the doctors for not taking medicare if they aren’t getting paid enough to cover their expenses let alone turn a profit.”

      The UK solves that problem with 3rd world doctors. And the doctors are better anyway since they aren’t tainted with imperialism.

      Except, of course, when they are busy blowing subways up.

  5. P. Aaron

    Obama said you would have Health Insurance. It turns out, access to Healthcare is going to be the difficult part for the ‘Bamster.

  6. retire05

    A couple of months ago, the Houston Medical Journal came out with a report that 52% of all Texas doctors were refusing to take Medicare/Medicaid patients. The reason was the low reimbursement amounts. But it gets worse:

    my doctor is a rural general practioner. He charges $60.00/office visit. Now, if he was in Austin, he would be reimbursed the entire amount but he’s not, he’s rural central Texas. So he get $48.11, not $60 which is really a reasonable charge. And he is facing a 21% decrease in reimbursement if that goes through, so M/M will only pay him $38.01 on a $60 visit.

    Doctors cannot function on so low reimbursement rates. They have to have at least one nurse on staff, office staff that makes appointments, and files insurance claims, mortgage or rent on their offices, supplies to maintain and equipment to buy. Can anyone make it waiting on their paycheck for upwards of six months or having to file the claim time after time because M/M requirements for filing are so strict?

    People retire to our county because housing values are good, and property taxes can be fairly low with the “over 65″ age exemption because of our Homestead Act. But they find out quickly that in the years when they need a doctor the most, they can’t find one that takes M/M and are having to drive the 60 miles to Austin to find a doctor.

    My doctor told me that he is thinking about not accepting ANY insurance assignments. He will take “cash only” patients, and will give them a statement of services that patients can submit to their insurance companies in order to be reimbursed. Many central Texas dentists no longer accept insurance assignments and are finding that in the long run, it cost them less to practice.

    The Dems are not going to be happy until they have totally ruined health care in America. But hey, then they will just shove all of us on Medicare/Medicaid and bankrupt that system even faster. Funny how no one ever mentions that it was Leninist Russia that started “universal” health care. Only problem, people died from it as it didn’t really work out very well.

  7. Petronius

    But . . . but . . . but . . . .

    But he said I could keep my doctor.

    But he said it . . . . He promised I could keep my doctor.

    But he PROMISED !!!

  8. Dupree

    On a health reform related side note:

    http://www.politico.com/news/s.....37155.html

    from the link:

    “The Obama administration has previewed its legal defense of health care reform in its response to a case in Eastern Michigan that sought to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional.

    With few surprises and succinct language, Tuesday’s response defended the mandated purchase of health insurance as well within the bounds of both the Commerce Clause and Congress’s power to raise taxes.”

    Please use this the next time a wingnut moonbat says Obama lowered taxes. If a tax credit = a tax cut, then surely a pay-or-play penalty = a tax increase.

  9. jobeth

    I can’t blame the doctors at all. They invested years and years of study and cost in becoming a doctor. And here comes Obalma with his “some people make too much money” attitude, coupled with the “ways and means” to get rid of the oldies (who have been paying taxes…and most likely for the food in his stupid mouth when he was a kid…and no longer are the cash cow for taxes.

    Add to that, that he doesn’t want allow these people to recoup their investment in this country and in mankind and you have a mess. Of course all those who chose to sit on their arses will now get all that money that is really due to those who worked hard for it. All in the name of spreading the wealth. To who!!!! The deadbeats and lazy!

    I have to say though, I am afraid for my own future. I am now on Medicare which I chose to replace with the Advantage program and he wants to kill that as well. So here I am… I paid for years into a mandated program he wants to gut and now I’m paying extra for an Advantage program he wants to kill.

    Nothing like getting old in Obalmy land! Actually if we all just die and get out of the way there would be no problem…for him.




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