After learning they would receive a 21.2 percent pay cut for Medicade and Medicare services starting Monday, locally, doctors are scrambling for solutions.
Last Friday, the Senate failed to repeal the bill disallowing the pay cut.
“It just flew under the radar,” said Joel Rudman, a Navarre family physician. “Usually, every year at the last minute, someone steps in to fix the problem. They didn’t do that this year and it’s something we take for granted.”
Doctors receiving patients with Medicade and Medicare coverage, including members of the U.S. military on the government’s TRICARE program, will be reimbursed 21-percent less than current reimbursement rates, which are still less than what doctors bill for, Rudman said.
This is the largest cut the insurance carrier has faced. In 2008, a Medicare cut of 10.6 percent went into effect, but was later repealed by Congress.
“At some point you have to ask how much loss can you absorb,” Rudman said.
Areas most affected by the pay cut are those heavily dependent on the military, such as Navarre, Rudman said. Roughly 75 percent of Rudman’s clients utilize Medicare, Medicade or are part of TRICARE.
“If there were areas that weren’t as heavily saturated with miltiary, sure I can see where they would just quit taking TRICARE,” he said. “But here, we are dependent on the military. For me, it will have to be business as usual.”
Jerry Leventhal, another Navarre family physician, agreed with Rudman.
“We’re not happy about it, but we’ll have to work that much harder to make up the difference,” he said. “My motivation for practicing medicine is not necessarily money.”
According to Leventhal, reform to the country’s healthcare system will impact physicians more than the 21 percent pay cut.
“I’m not going to close my doors over it,” he said.
Medicare billing agencies have asked doctors to postpone billing for patients seen over the next two weeks, hoping Congress will repeal the bill.
“I don’t know anyone with an accounts revceivable that can go two weeks without getting paid,” Rudman said. “But that’s the government’s advice.”
The other option doctors are seeking is asking such patients to reschedule upcoming appointments until after the issue has been dealt with.“I understand the fix to this is attached to the job’s bill, something completely unrelated,” Rudman said.