As of March 1 physicians, especially specialists, are gathering all over the country to decide what they will do about the new Medicare reimbursement rules. Doctors who accept Medicare will now get 21 percent less than before, and they say this is happening just as their malpractice insurance is rising - again. This is "lawsuit" insurance that 30 years ago cost approximately $3,000 a year and has now risen to $200,000 and up- and even higher for specialties like oncology and surgery where mortality rates are high.
Many are saying they will be leaving states with high ratios of retirees and the frail elderly, especially Florida, Arizona, Texas and California for states with fewer Medicare patients. But other insurance companies are sure to follow suit and begin to pay less to doctors. Medicare has always been the leader in such matters, and soon after, others follow.
Why would they want to stay in places where living expenses are high and they make less money? Several doctors I interviewed for a story in our local Tampa Bay newspaper this week say there is a petition being prepared and a mass protest is planned.
I know- most of us think of the physicians as the ultra elite who make millions, and of course, some do. But many are in the profession to heal people, and work at hospitals and clinics and medical groups; not private practice. Others, especially young ones who have not yet paid off their tremendous loans for college and medical school and are working 70 hours a week in intern duty will also suffer as established physicians move and leave ERs and clinics filled with those who can find care nowhere else.