Doctors face 20 percent cut in reimbursement

(AP)

January 4, 2010 5:05:39 PM PST
Doctor Arthur Bradford has been a family practitioner for the past 30 years. It's a job he does with a lot of compassion.

But he and other doctors are facing a 20 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement fees - making it difficult for his small practice to survive.

"You're trying to render the type of care that is compassionate care, that's sensitive care, that's thorough care and you can't do it under the circumstances of having to fight for a dollar," he said.

President Obama has signed a bill which provides for a zero percent update to the 2010 Medicare physicians fee schedule. Doctors say the bill will cost small family practices that see the bulk of Medicare patients hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Shelby Storms is a Medicare client who hopes that cost isn't passed on patients.

"This is a poor community, a poor county. People just don't have the money," she explained.

Figuring out Medicare complex payment rules can be extremely complicated, but doctors say one thing is simple. If you cut 20 percent from a small business's pay, it's difficult for them to provide services and keep the lights on.

"Costs have gone up because the changes and reimbursements have gone down. How they expect us to pay bills and survive in a small business setting is beyond my comprehension at this point," offered Dr. Sandhya Thomas-Montilus, a family practitioner.

Bradford says if more isn't done to help family doctors make ends meet, many will be forced to shut down and new doctors will seek other ways to make a buck.

"Young people that are in residency training start to find out what is happening with a lot of bills and the reforms and the changes that are taking place politically. They will not go into family practice or primary care," he said.

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