A long-running concern of Congress, analysts and physician groups is that decreased Medicare reimbursements will prevent physicians from accepting Medicare beneficiaries. The concern came to the forefront in 2002 when fees were reduced by 5.4 percent and have continued as healthcare costs outpace reimbursement rates.
Now a GAO report finds that reimbursement has little impact on beneficiaries' access to doctors. The report asked beneficiaries whether or not they had difficulty finding a doctor between 2000 and 2004 and doctors how willing they were to accept beneficiaries from 2000 to 2005. Only 7 percent of beneficiaries reported having problems and only 4 percent of physicians said they did not accept new Medicare patients. The American Medical Association, which is naturally displeased with this finding, said the study doesn't mean beneficiaries have improved access to doctors or that they're receiving the best care.