Oklahoma doctors warned Wednesday that looming cuts to their Medicare reimbursement rates may force some physicians to stop seeing patients who receive benefits from the nation’s largest health care program.
Physicians are facing a 21 percent cut in Medicare rates June 1 unless Congress extends the current physician payment rate, which has been extended a couple times, said Ken King, executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Dr. K.A. Mehta, the state medical association’s president, said declining Medicare reimbursements are forcing more Oklahoma doctors to limit the number of Medicare patients they see. Operating costs, such as rent, staff and malpractice insurance, continue to increase, he said. "This means reduced access to health care for our patients who often need it the most,” Mehta said. Medicare recipients include seniors and people with disabilities. Thousands of military family members covered by TRICARE also would be affected because its reimbursement rate is tied to the Medicare rate, doctors said. "We believe the only acceptable solution is for Congress to repeal the flawed Medicare formula,” said Dr. Larry Bookman, president of the Oklahoma County Medical Society, He said it should be replaced with a stable, fair funding mechanism that reflects "the true cost of providing care.” The national health care bill signed into law earlier this year did not address the reimbursement rates for Medicare, King said.