Medicare Physician Services
GAO found that Medicare beneficiaries experienced few problems accessing physician services during its period of study. Very small percentages of Medicare beneficiaries–less than 3 percent–reported major difficulties accessing physician services in 2007 and 2008. The proportion of beneficiaries who received physician services and the number of services per beneficiary served increased nationwide from April 2000 to April 2008. Indicators of physician willingness to serve Medicare beneficiaries and to accept Medicare fees as payments in full also rose from 2000 to 2008.
By Don McCanne, MD
In the debate on health care reform we hear that physicians are leaving the Medicare program because they cannot continue to accept the low fees paid by the government. Not true, according to this new GAO report. Physicians are more willing to serve Medicare beneficiaries and to accept Medicare fees as payments in full.
Some might use this finding to support a public option paying Medicare rates, but it is a much more powerful argument when used in support of a single payer, Medicare for all, national health program. Unlike the private insurance plans, Medicare pays enough, but not too much, though appropriate revisions are a continuing work in progress – as it should be.