’06 Medicare payment cuts to doctors proposed

From the August 2 edition of the Houston Chronicle:

The federal government proposed on Monday reducing payments to doctors through Medicare by about 4.3 percent next year. The reduction is mandated by a formula that takes into account substantial growth in overall Medicare spending, officials said. As that spending increases above estimates, and it has the past several years, then the law requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to adjust payments downward for more than 7,000 health care procedures and services.

The proposed reduction was anticipated by doctors. The American Medical Association said last week that many doctors would quit seeing Medicare patients if the 4.3 percent reduction went through.

“Thirty-eight percent of physicians told us exactly what we feared: ‘We’ll be forced to decrease the number of new Medicare patients we accept into our practices,’ ” said Dr. John Armstrong, a member of the AMA’s board of trustees. “These changes would be just the tip of the iceberg, with the majority of the cuts yet to come in the five years following 2006.”

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