Case study: How TN physicians are changing their practice

With Medicare cuts looming, many physicians vowed that they'd stop accepting Medicare patients entirely if and when the cuts went through. The thing is, even though Medicare cuts have been held off, large numbers of physicians are dropping out anyway. One example of this comes in Tennessee, where doctors are increasingly dropping out of the program. Not only are many refusing new Medicare patients, some are thinking about dropping current Medicare patients too. That's because in some cases, doctors aren't even getting paid enough to cover their expenses, they say.

The steady drop in Medicare physicians is putting a painful squeeze on the state's health system, which already includes an above-average number of Medicare beneficiaries and a below-average number of doctors who are willing to accept them. Given the current conditions, patients there may need to make dozens of calls--and wait months to be seen--to be cared for by a physician who takes Medicare.

Ultimately, Medicare will have to adjust its payment formula, physicians say. But that won't happen without intervention from Congress, which set the current system in place in 1997. (Perhaps our new president will make some changes next year?)

To learn more about this trend:
- read this piece in The Tennessean

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