Local Drs. Worried About New Medicare Reimbursement Process

They fear  too many patients and not enough physicians in the future.

Concerns about the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act brought out of physicians Wednesday night in Frederick. The legislation, which passed Congress last year, changes the way doctors are reimbursed for treating Medicare patients. The doctors are worried that there won’t be enough  physicians  in the future to care for the growing number of Medicare patients as the “baby boomers” retire. “Right now, physicians are leaving medicine,retiring early because excessive regulations imposed upon them. And these new metrics they’re imposing on us are moving us away from the patient,” says Dr. John Vitariello, a local cardiologist and the President of the Frederick County Medical Society.

“We spend more time doing metrics on the computer than examining and talking to patients,” he said.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, also know as MACRA, is a way to “align and modernize how Medicare patients are tied to the cost and quality of patient care for hundreds of thousands of doctors and other clinicians,” according to a news release from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, according to DHHS, Medicare measures the value and quality of care provided by doctors and other clinicians through “a patchwork of programs.” But MACRA will “streamline these various programs into a single framework to help clinicians transition from payments based on volume to payments based on value,” according to a news release from DHHS.

Dr. Vitariello thinks it could mean physicians leaving Medicare. “72% percent of my patients are Medicare right now. Right now, with the new ‘baby boomers,’ we’re going to get 22% more of the nation to be Medicare patients. Physicians are retiring early, they’re leaving Medicare, not participating in it. And patients are left in the lurch without physicians taking care of them,” he said.

Dr. Vitariello predicts that there will be 62-million Medicare patients by 2025, and 90,000 fewer doctors to take care of them. He says physicians want Medicare to work, and want to be educated on the ins and outs of this new reimbursement system.

Gene Ransom, the CEO of Med Chi, Maryland State Medical Society, echoed the same comments. “Some are talking about things like retirement, changing their practice, and they’re very nervous about the situation. What we’re trying to do is educate them on it so they can make good options and make good decisions,” he says.

Doctor Michael Rifkin  got out of the medical profession in 2014. “I saw the quality of medicine and how it was affecting my patients basically disintegrate due to the fact that the dollars in health care were going down, and requirements and the regulations were going up ,” he says. Rifkin says he has some concerns about the future of medicine with all of these new regulations.

During a presentation, Dr. Barbara Connor with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said these changes are designed to make Medicare “better and smarter.” She urged the doctors to “send their voice and their comments to CMS,” and not let the “AMA speak for you.”  The deadline is June 20th, 2016.

Ransom with Med Chi reminded the doctors that this is a proposal, and it’s not been finalized. If you don’t like most or all of it, let CMS know.