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Where will Seniors get Health Care?
More than One in 10 Family Medicine
Practices consider closing with continued
threats to Medicare Payment
LEAWOOD, Kan., Dec.
2, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/
-- At a time when 56 million Americans
struggle to gain access to primary care
doctors, more than one in 10 family
physicians face the prospect of closing
their offices if Medicare slashes their
payment next year, according to a recent
survey of American Academy of Family
Physicians members who have an ownership
stake in their medical practices.
For seniors, that will make seeing a doctor
even more difficult.
The AAFP survey asked family physicians
about the impact of the 25 percent Medicare
pay cut required by law to take effect Jan.
The results showed that nearly 13 percent of
respondents would consider no longer seeing
any patients, more than six out of ten (62
percent) said they may be forced to stop
accepting new Medicare patients, and more
than seven in 10 (73 percent) said they
would have to limit the number of Medicare
The results paint a bleak picture for
elderly and disabled Americans who depend on
Medicare for their health care coverage and
for military families who depend on TRICARE,
according to Roland
MD, MBA, president of the American Academy
of Family Physicians.
"This survey demonstrates the serious threat
to Americans' access to health care that is
posed by the current formula for paying
physicians to care for the elderly and
disabled," Goertz said. "The most vulnerable
Medicare patients are people in rural areas
who are at risk of completely losing access
to care if a practice in their small
Goertz pointed to an Oct.
survey that showed 81 percent of AARP
members who receive Medicare and 86 percent
of members not yet eligible for Medicare are
concerned about the impact of the Medicare
physician pay cut on their access to a
"Americans understand the threat that
Medicare pay cuts pose for their own health
care and the health care of their loved
ones," said Goertz.
Family physicians are the primary source of
medical care for 60 percent of people age 65
and older who report having an individual
health professional as their usual source of
care. Elderly and disabled Americans in
rural and underserved areas, where family
physicians often are the only health care
professionals in town, would be particularly
But slashing Medicare payment to physicians
threatens just such a loss, particularly for
rural Americans, according to AAFP survey
"Medicare cuts would destroy my practice of
geriatric medicine," said one respondent.
"The 21 percent-plus Medicare cut would most
likely put us and other small practices out
of business and force us to eventually close
our doors to our patients, because, soon
after the Medicare cut comes, all commercial
insurance will follow suit as their fee
schedule is based on Medicare's," wrote one
forget about getting care if you have
TRICARE. Which, as a veteran myself, is an
Others have already thrown in the towel.
"I have made a decision to close my
practice," wrote one respondent. "I am
losing my shirt. This game with SGR is
The stagnant Medicare payments during 10
years of inflation have taken their toll on
family physician practices. Many family
physicians have remained open by cutting
expenses, including their own salaries.
"Already closed one satellite office," wrote
one respondent. "Currently I'm in the red
simply trying to stay afloat. Just
liquidated my entire retirement IRA to pay
office expenses/accountant and do not see
any possible way to remain in business."
"My partner and I did not pay ourselves last
month due to the delay in Medicare
payments," said one respondent.
More than 56 million rural, urban and
suburban Americans are classified as
"medically disenfranchised" because they
have no access to primary health care,
according to research by the Robert Graham
Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine
and Primary Care and the National
Association of Community Health Centers.
The NACHC also reports a significant
shortage of primary care doctors, nurse
practitioners and other health care
professionals. The loss of family physicians
would be devastating to Americans in primary
care shortage areas, Goertz added.
"We have reached a point where all patients
— children, their parents and their
grandparents — face the real prospect of
losing their doctors," said Goertz.
"Medicare — the program designed to ensure
that our elderly have access to health care
— could force the very doctors who care for
them out of business. And if that happens,
all patients in that community — regardless
of their insurance coverage — would lose
access to needed health care."
About the American Academy of Family
Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 94,700
physicians and medical students nationwide.
It is the only medical society devoted
solely to primary care.
Approximately one in four of all office
visits are made to family physicians. That
is 228 million office visits each year —
nearly 84 million more than the next largest
medical specialty. Today, family physicians
provide more care for America's underserved
and rural populations than any other medical
specialty. Family medicine's cornerstone is
an ongoing, personal patient-physician
relationship focused on integrated care.
To learn more about the specialty of family
medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and
clinical care, and for downloadable
multi-media highlighting family medicine,
For information about health care, health
conditions and wellness, please visit the
AAFP's award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org.
SOURCE American Academy of Family Physicians