MGMA Press Room
Group practices forced to limit access for Medicare patients in ’08; more hard times to come
Financial uncertainly and additional cuts in ’09 create climate of fear
ENGLEWOOD, Colo., March 6, 2008 – According to research conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), group practices nationwide have already taken significant measures in response to the uncertain reimbursement environment and the failure of Medicare physician payments to keep pace with the cost of delivering care.* As a result of Congress’s six-month adjustment to Medicare payments, the looming 10.6 percent cut scheduled for July 1 and an additional 5.4 percent cut to physician reimbursement scheduled for January 2009, practices will have to reduce beneficiary access further and make even more operational sacrifices.
Nearly 24 percent of respondents indicated that as a result of the financial uncertainty created by the temporary adjustment to Medicare physician payments and pending 10.6 reduction scheduled for July, they had either begun limiting or not accepting new Medicare patients.
In light of the anticipated 10.6 percent cut scheduled to take effect in just four months, nearly half (46 percent) of respondents said they would have to stop accepting and/or limit the number of Medicare beneficiaries their practices treat.
“For the first time, group practice professionals have confirmed our worst fears. We’re seeing a continuing, year-over-year failure to address the cost of providing care under Medicare and continuing financial instability that force group practices to limit beneficiary access,” said William F. Jessee, MD, FACMPE, president and CEO of MGMA. “The six-month adjustment to payments only served to create further uncertainty and administrative burden to practices already scrambling to shield themselves from additional payment cuts looming in 2009.”
MGMA members reported that they will suffer further operational damage as a result of payment instability and the projected double-digit reductions to Medicare physician payments. More than half of responding practices are considering reducing administrative and clinical staff. The majority of respondents said they would limit hiring for those positions. More than two-thirds of respondents described how they will sacrifice or postpone information technology (IT) and equipment investments.
“Particularly disturbing is the effect the uncertainly and reimbursement shortfall is having on practices’ ability to invest in health IT and other tools to increase patient safety and quality,” Jessee said.
MGMA continues its grassroots advocacy campaign to fix the broken physician reimbursement system. The Association urges Congress to provide an 18-month payment increase to physicians who treat Medicare patients. This would provide short-term financial stability as Medicare payment reform continues.
*More than 1,000 group practice professionals responded to a questionnaire using MGMA’s Legislative and Executive Advocacy Response Network (LEARN), a nationwide network of group practices interested in group-practice policy issues. More than 28,679 physicians practice in these responding organizations. For a copy of the full results of the questionnaire, contact MGMA Press Relations.
MGMA, founded in 1926, is the nation's principal voice for medical group practice. MGMA's more than 21,500 members manage and lead 13,500 organizations, in which more than 270,000 physicians practice. MGMA's core purpose is to improve the effectiveness of medical group practices and the knowledge and skills of the individuals who manage and lead them. MGMA headquarters are in Englewood, Colo.