Physician groups making drastic Medicare access decisions as SGR cuts loom

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 24, 2011 - New research released today by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) highlights the magnitude of the uncertainly faced by physician practices coping with a decade of temporary, last-minute congressional reprieves from Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment cuts, as well as the latest threatened 29.5 percent cut scheduled for Jan. 1.

In its latest research, MGMA reports that while 95 percent of physician practices polled said they currently participate in Medicare, only 16 percent indicated they will maintain current levels of access for new Medicare patients if the proposed 2012 cut occurs. Fifty-one percent indicated that they will reduce available appointments for new Medicare patients, and 33 percent expressed uncertainty about how the cuts could impact the patients they serve.

“Physician Medicare participation rates mask the tremendous uncertainty and difficult decisions being made by group practices due to the pending SGR cuts,” said Susan Turney, MD, MS, FACP, FACMPE, MGMA president and CEO.

“Medicare’s tenuous state is putting patients at risk and forcing physicians to make painful access choices to keep their doors open. If the cut occurs it’s going to be extremely difficult for patients to find physicians who are able to accept new Medicare patients.”

MGMA’s research also details actions that practices have already taken due to the uncertainty created by multiple years of short term congressional fixes. Sixty five percent of respondents said the uncertainty caused by the annual threat of Medicare payment cuts has already caused them to delay purchases of new clinical equipment and/or facilities, and 52 percent reported that they have had to reduce charity care.

“Our data reflects a dire Medicare environment for physician practices,” Turney said. “The five short- term congressional patches last year substantially diminished practices’ faith in Congress and the stability of the Medicare program. This time, practices are not waiting to implement tough business decisions. The SGR is a runaway train that threatens the future of Medicare. It’s time for Congress to step up, repeal the SGR and avert the train wreck right around the corner.”

MGMA conducted the research from mid-September through mid-October. The Association received responses from more than 2,176 practices in which more than 93,000 physicians practice. MGMA will use this research in its grassroots advocacy efforts to urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and Congress to take action to repeal the SGR.

About MGMA Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) is the premier membership association for professional administrators and leaders of medical group practices. Since 1926, MGMA has delivered networking, professional education and resources, and political advocacy for medical practice management. Today, MGMA’s 22,500 members lead 13,600 organizations nationwide in which some 280,000 physicians provide more than 40 percent of the healthcare services delivered in the United States.

MGMA’s mission is to continually improve the performance of medical group practice professionals and the organizations they represent. MGMA promotes the group practice model as the optimal framework for healthcare delivery, assisting group practices in providing efficient, safe, patient-focused and affordable care. The American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) is the standard-setting and certification body of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), and promotes the professional growth of leaders. By developing the Body of Knowledge for Medical Practice Management, ACMPE provides a central framework for MGMA resources. MGMA is headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and maintains a government affairs office in Washington, D.C. Please visit  

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