Congress' Failure on 'Doc Fix' Bill Spells Trouble for Idaho

Jun 23, 2010, 10:11 ET from AARP Idaho

21% Pay Cut Under Medicare Could See More Docs Leave Program & Older Idahoans Struggling to Find Needed Care

BOISE, Idaho, June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Older Idahoans on Medicare already have trouble finding doctors, with one in five refusing to accept patients under the program – that problem is about to get much worse.  Thanks to Congress' inaction, a 21% Medicare pay cut to doctors is hitting home – meaning even fewer doctors in Idaho will continue to provide care to Medicare beneficiaries, leaving the state's elderly with few options for their health care.  

75% of Idaho's 213,000 Medicare beneficiaries see their physicians under the program.  AARP is urging Idaho's Congressional delegation to immediately pass legislation fixing the 21% physician pay cut for as long as possible before a crisis sets in and until a permanent solution can be found.  

"Older Idahoans, who've spent their entire working lives paying for Medicare coverage when they need it most, shouldn't now be forced to worry about finding a doctor to see them," said Jim Wordelman.  "If Congress doesn't act on this issue immediately, the doctor will be out for thousands of elderly Idahoans."

For the last seven years, Congress has taken a band-aid approach, passing short-term fixes to prevent the cuts which occur as part of a flawed Medicare reimbursement rate formula for doctors.   The Senate recently passed a 6 month fix; the House, however, has refused to take similar action on the issue -- AARP is calling on both to immediately tackle the issue.    

"Congress has failed to tackle this issue in the past – and now millions of Medicare beneficiaries across the nation and thousands in Idaho are paying the price for their inaction," added Wordelman.  "It's time for Idaho's Congressional delegation to work to break the gridlock on this critical issue and help our state's elderly residents get the access to their doctors they need and deserve."

The cuts are compounded by Idaho's low physician-to-patient ratio (ranking 49th in the nation), and the increasing number of doctors in the state refusing to accept Medicare patients (over 20%, according to a recent AARP survey - 28% in urban areas) -- the number one reason cited was low reimbursement rates even before the pay cut.  The full AARP survey, The Doctor is Out, can be found here:

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with over 180,000 members.

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