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Tue Dec 17, 2013, 06:26 AM

Medicare Patients’ Access to Physicians: A Synthesis of the Evidence


Main findings:
* On a national level, Medicare patients have good access to physicians. The vast majority (96%) of Medicare beneficiaries report having a usual source of care, primarily a doctor’s office or doctor’s clinic.

* Most people with Medicare — about 90 percent — are able to schedule timely appointments for routine and specialty care. Medicare seniors are more likely than privately insured adults age 50-64 to report “never” having to wait longer than they want for timely routine care appointments.

* A small share of Medicare beneficiaries say they looked for a new physician in the past year, and only 2 percent of seniors with Medicare report problems finding one when needed — comparable to rates reported by privately insured adults age 50-64.

Comment by Don McCanne of PNHP: This comprehensive report lays to rest once and for all the the rumor that physicians are leaving Medicare in droves. Most physicians accept new Medicare patients, and less than 1 percent have formally opted-out of the Medicare program.

An improved Medicare would be even more attractive to physicians, especially if it covered everyone. It would dramatically reduce hassles with intrusive third party payers so that physicians could spend most of their time doing what they devoted their lives to - taking care of their patients.

As far as th threat that physicians would quit if we enacted an improved Medicare for all, first of all, very few would leave - likely less than 1 percent - and, second, since most of those who would leave seem to be more interested in money rather than patients (think concierge), we really don’t want them around anyway. It would be a great way to clean up our profession.

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