Medicare Payment Cuts Could Hinder Doctors’ Health IT Adoption

The threat of Medicare physician payment cuts would prohibit physicians from investing in health IT, according to Cecil Wilson, chair of the American Medical Association board, United Press International reports.

The Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which determines how much Medicare pays physicians for services, calls for a 10% cut in 2008. Congress for the past five years has stepped in to overrule the formula but so far this year no bill to do so has been introduced.

If the rate reduction goes through, about one in three physicians will decrease the number of Medicare patients they accept, and more than 25% of doctors will stop accepting Medicare patients altogether, according to an AMA survey of almost 9,000 physicians.

The payment cuts also will affect patients who are not Medicare beneficiaries, Wilson said. If physicians cannot invest in technology, such as electronic health records, they will have difficulty measuring, and thus improving, the quality of care they provide, according to UPI.

AMA said Congress should reverse the cuts and add a 1.7% increase to reflect rising practice costs for doctors. Congress in the short term should finance the reimbursement increase by eliminating the 12% gap between what the government pays for patients in traditional Medicare and the higher rate paid to Medicare Advantage plans, Wilson said. In the long term, Congress should eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate and begin tying physician reimbursements to increased medical costs, he said.
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