Examining Physicians In State Limiting New Medicare Beneficiaries

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Tennessean in a two-part series examined how physicians in the state are limiting the number of new Medicare beneficiaries they will treat and how some are charging concierge fees to accept new beneficiaries.

In the first part of the series, the Tennessean on Sunday examined how Tennessee physicians are "[t]ired of facing perennial cuts in reimbursement for Medicare services" and are saying "they can no longer afford to take on new patients ... especially as the costs of providing services and operating a practice increase." In addition, some physicians "are beginning to think about cutting current Medicare patients from their roster," the Tennessean reports. According to the Tennessean, the state is "particularly at risk for physicians opting out of Medicare" because there are an "above-average number of Medicare patients and a below-average number of doctors who treat them." Physicians in the state say the problem will get worse if payment cuts occur, such as a 10.6% cut that was averted when Congress overrode President Bush's veto of Medicare legislation last week (Stults, Tennessean, 7/20).

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In the second part of the series, the Tennessean on Monday examined how some physician practices are charging Medicare beneficiaries annual concierge fees for treatment. The article profiles physician John Chauvin's practice, which charges Medicare beneficiaries $1,500 annually.

According to the Tennessean, "The fee is part of Chauvin's bid to trim his patient rolls to about 600 people -- down from 2,500 -- so he can spend more time with each one and offer what he sees as extra preventive care." Some insurers, such as UnitedHealthcare and Cigna, are dropping physicians from their networks for charging concierge fees. They say that preventive care should already be covered under their network agreements and that they must provide equal access to all members (Ward, Tennessean, 7/21).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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