Some Medicare patients are struggling to find doctors willing to treat their conditions, and many are worried that the government is paying for treatments they don’t need, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.
That’s according to a survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The survey found Medicare payments for certain conditions are falling and some are seeing higher Medicare payments than they would have under a government program.
A number of patients say they were denied an appointment or doctor’s appointment because they are too expensive or were not accepted for a vaccine because of their health status.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had been denied her scheduled appointment for about three weeks.
She said her insurance covered her medication and that the state refused to pay for it.
“They said, ‘We’re not going to pay,’ ” she said.
“I didn’t feel safe coming here.
I was in a terrible state.”
Many of the patients CBS News interviewed said they had no idea why they were not getting the treatment they were expecting, even though the state said it was necessary.
The American Academy also found that the vast majority of Medicare patients were getting treatment that they needed, and were being offered the treatment by doctors who did not have Medicare coverage.
Medicare has been cutting back on the number of doctors it allows to treat Medicare patients, but the American Hospital Association says it remains committed to expanding its supply of primary care doctors and nurse practitioners.
“We are very concerned that there are shortages of primary and preventive care physicians in Medicare,” said Jennifer R. Anderson, the association’s director of health services policy and advocacy.
“It is important to understand that our goal is to expand access to primary and specialty care for all Medicare beneficiaries, not just Medicare beneficiaries.”
While the Medicare numbers were still coming in, the Medicare payment cuts had already been announced.
The agency said on Tuesday that it would stop accepting Medicare payments to doctors who do not have coverage through the government program and would start charging Medicare patients the same rate for services they paid for under Medicare Advantage.
It said Medicare payments would decrease by about $7 billion for the coming fiscal year.
The federal government is responsible for paying the majority of the payments for Medicare.
The National Association of Social Workers, which represents about 4 million social workers and advocates for social workers, welcomed the changes.
“The NAMSW supports Medicare and supports its important role in the health care system,” said NASSW President and CEO Jocelyn Johnson.
“These cuts are a step in the right direction to help Medicare patients get the care they need and the services they deserve.”
But the American Medical Association said the cuts would do little to help millions of people who have difficulty getting their medication and are not getting enough care.
“Many of the [surgery] procedures that are being offered are not being covered by Medicare,” AMA President Dr. Robert Moffit said in a statement.
“This will lead to fewer access to needed services, less preventive care and ultimately, less access to care.”
Medicare’s Medicare Advantage program pays about 75 percent of all Medicare fees, including prescription drug and other services, hospitalizations and lab tests.
Medicare is also trying to help pay for other costs, such as for the salaries of doctors and nurses.
Medicare paid about $8 billion to doctors last year and is expected to spend about $1.6 billion this year on salaries.
The government has also been paying Medicare Advantage doctors more than $2 billion a year to perform some of their work.
In February, Medicare agreed to pay $5.4 billion over the next two years to pay some of the doctors’ salaries, but it still needs to find another $1 billion to cover the remaining costs.