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More Idaho Docs Expected To Leave Medicare With 22% Pay Cut Looming

Friday, November 20, 2009 General News J E 4
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Without Passage of 'Doc Fix' Bill Many of Idaho's 213,000 Medicare Beneficiaries Could Lose Access to Their Doctors

BOISE, Idaho, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hundreds of thousands of older Idahoans on Medicare are keeping their eyes and hopes on Washington, D.C. today as the House of Representatives is expected to take up critical legislation that could determine whether the doctor is "in" or "out." The fate of the "Doc Fix" bill (HR 3961), which will stave off a 22% pay cut for doctors under Medicare, leaves much at stake for 75% of Idaho's 213,000 Medicare beneficiaries who see their physicians under the program.

"Idaho has one the worst doctor participation rates in Medicare - leaving many older people out in the cold when it comes to seeing a doctor," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "Whether Idaho's health care woes worsen or not hang in the balance with today's vote."

With just 176 practicing physicians per 100,000 people, Idaho has among the lowest physician-to- population ratios in the nation - a problem that already causes long waits for Medicare beneficiaries. The outcome of this legislation could serve as the deciding factor as to whether many Idaho physicians continue to accept any patients under Medicare at all. Last year, 12% of physicians closed their doors to Medicare patients, with many citing declining reimbursement as the reason according to The Physicians' Foundation.

"Our state retires who have recently been forced off their promised state health care and into Medicare are counting on Idaho's members of Congress to do what's right and vote in favor of this bill strengthening the program. A vote against this legislation is a vote against older Idahoans," added Wordelman. "Similar legislation failed in the Senate last month, now it's up to the House to move this critical issue forward."

The AARP-backed "Doc Fix" legislation, will replace the currently flawed Medicare physician payment formula with a new system to ensure doctors are paid fairly so they'll not only continue to treat existing Medicare patients, but will also accept new ones. Over the last seven years, Congress has passed legislation seven times to override the flawed Medicare physician payment formula; this legislation would permanently address the problem.

SOURCE AARP Idaho
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