A record number of U.S. doctors are turning down new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates, with just six months remaining before large numbers of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program.
According to a series of recent surveys, more doctors are limiting Medicare patients, in part because Congress has not halted an automatic 21 percent reduction in payments which went into effect last week.
According to a recent survey by The American Academy of Family Physicians, 13 percent of respondents didn't participate in Medicare last year, up from 8 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2004.
Meanwhile, The American Osteopathic Association says that 15 percent of its members don't participate in Medicare, while 19 percent don't accept new Medicare patients.
The American Medical Association says that 17 percent of more than 9,000 doctors surveyed currently restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice, while among primary care physicians, the number jumps to 31 percent.
A survey by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that 97 percent of doctors accept Medicare, but the agency doesn't know how many have refused new patients.
According to John Rother, policy director for The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "Medicare beneficiaries have good access to physician services. We do have concerns about access to primary care physicians."
He added that some areas of the country already face a shortage of primary care physicians, a trend that could be worsened by current Medicare trends.