Texas Doctors Oppose Medicare Cuts

A survey of Texas doctors conducted by the Texas Medical Association shows half of them would opt out of the Medicare program altogether if the cuts go through.

TMA President Dr. Bruce Malone likens the situation to a physicians' version of the movie Groundhog Day.

"The same thing keeps happening over and over. Every year, thanks to a really bad formula that's in federal law, Washington threatens to cut physicians' payments for taking care of patients on Medicare. Every year we urge, entreat, sometimes even beg Congress to fix the formula. Every year, Congress steps in at the last minute to avert the cuts and puts off fixing the formula for another year."

Right now, the formula calls for a 29.5 percent cut to the payment doctors get for treating Medicare patients.

Dr. Michael Speer is the president-elect of the TMA and a neonatologist with Texas Children's Hospital. He says physicians are already struggling financially to treat Medicare patients and those cuts would be crippling.

"I can't see any way how I would do — if I had a 30 percent drop in pay and I had to still run an office and pay for the overhead and everything else. I don't think it's sustainable."

Medicare includes coverage for the elderly, disabled and military families.

Dr. Malone says those groups could have serious problems finding a doctor if the cuts go through.

"This is not just a problem for tomorrow. Our survey found that three percent of Texas physicians already have opted out of Medicare. Another eight percent already accept no new Medicare patients. And another 12 percent already further limit how many Medicare patients they see."

There are more than three million Medicare beneficiaries in the state of Texas, and 381,000 of them live in Harris County. The cuts to Medicare reimbursements will go into effect in January unless Congress intervenes.

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