Medicare is the government health care program for the elderly. For internists such as me, Medicare patients make up around half our practice. Because of historical budget tools, every year Congress goes through the motion of watching our reimbursement cut, and quickly fixing it. It’s a terrible system. As a small business, my costs are pretty much fixed: rent, employee pay, health insurance, supplies, etc. Every year, a Medicare pay cut goes into effect, and then our checks are held while Congress puts together a temporary fix.
This year, the pay cut is 21%. That means that I will have to try to pay my rent, my employees and my suppliers and myself on somewhere around 10-12% less pay. We work on very narrow margins to begin with, so this means that we may not be able to pay our bills. This week, the Senate managed to pass a fix that would have stopped the pay cut. They did this by stripping away other legislation it was attached to. When it went to the House, Speaker Pelosi added back a bunch of unrelated legislation, which essentially insures that the fix won’t pass, or if it does, it won’t be for a long time. We’ve been informed that our checks, which were being held by Medicare until the fix, are now being mailed out with the 21% pay cut.
This may seem boring, this may seem like whining from someone in a higher income bracket, but providing medical care to our seniors is expensive. When these checks hit our accounts, we’re going to have to make big cuts just to pay the rent. These cuts may mean we have to try to run the office with fewer employees, we may need to cut our health insurance for our employees, and we will definitely need to stop taking Medicare patients.
This is not something that can wait. There are fewer and fewer primary care doctors taking Medicare patients every day. With more Americans reaching Medicare age, it will rapidly become nearly impossible for them to find doctors.
This cannot wait. Please call or write your representative now. Currently the House is the body holding up the “doc fix”. Doctors and their elderly patients need your help immediately.
I’ve also started a twitter hastag #FixMedicare to help brainstorm ideas and connect people who care about this issue.