Three times more doctors are refusing Medicare patients than three years ago, many citing Medicare's increasing rules and lowered payment rates.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the program, even doctors who still see some Medicare patients are limiting the number of Medicare patients they will treat, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The declines are in addition to the growing number of doctors who won't accept new Medicaid patients, and come just as millions of Americans are poised to become eligible for coverage
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The numbers of doctors refusing both Medicare and Medicaid payments won't completely undermine Obamacare, health experts say, but some patients may have problems finding doctors who will accept their new coverage under the healthcare-reform law.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 9,539 doctors who had accepted Medicare payments opted out of the program last year. That seems like a large number, but 685,000 doctors nationally were enrolled as participating Medicare physicians in 2012.
Eight-one percent of them were family doctors, a drop from 83 percent in 2010, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports. The journal Health Affairs, however, reported this month that one-third of primary-care physicians did not accept new Medicaid patients in 2010-2011.
Part of the problem is that Medicare payment rates have not kept pace with inflation, and Medicare reimbursements could be slashed by 25 percent next year unless Congress delays the cuts. In addition, the amount of paperwork and information required from doctors and providers is massive.
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"Family physicians have been fed up for a long time and it's getting worse," said Jeffrey Cain, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
When doctors opt out of programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, they can practice based on patients' needs instead of worrying about reimbursement rates, he said.
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