By Dan Diamond
California Healthline, August 7, 2013
The Wall Street Journal last month portrayed physician unhappiness with Medicare as a burning issue, with a cover story that detailed why many more doctors are opting out of the program.
And yes, the number of doctors saying no to Medicare has proportionately risen quite a bit — from 3,700 doctors in 2009 to 9,539 in 2012. (And in some cases, Obamacare has been a convenient scapegoat.)
But that’s only part of the story.
What the Journal didn’t report is that, per CMS, the number of physicians who agreed to accept Medicare patients continues to grow year-over-year, from 705,568 in 2012 to 735,041 in 2013.
There’s more than finances at stake, too. In an informal survey of a half-dozen doctors, most told California Healthline that they felt ethically obligated to stick with the program.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Since the beginning of Medicare, we have heard stories that doctors weren’t going to take it anymore; they were going to drop out of Medicare. Some have, but it’s a negligible number. Those who say that Obamacare is forcing more doctors to drop out of Medicare will have to explain to us how that computes with the fact that the numbers of physicians agreeing to accept Medicare has increased by almost 30,000 this year alone, for an all-time high of over 735,000.
What is more reassuring is the result of California Healthline’s very small informal survey of physicians. They found out what most of us who have been in the profession for a few decades already knew – physicians feel ethically obligated to stick with Medicare. What do you think their ethical sense would be under an improved Medicare program that covered everyone?