An Update on Medicare Beneficiary Access to Physician Services

Publication Date: February 2005

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Sally Trude; Paul B. Ginsburg

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


After declining markedly between 1997 and 2001, Medicare seniors’ access to physician care stabilized between 2001 and 2003, according to a national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Access to care trends were parallel for Medicare seniors 65 and older and privately insured people between the ages of 55 and 64—the near-elderly—suggesting that health system developments were much more important influences on beneficiary access than any effects of Medicare’s 2002 physician payment rate reduction. In addition, access to care for both Medicare seniors and privately insured near-elderly people was comparable in local health care markets where commercial insurance payment rates far exceed Medicare’s. However, both Medicare seniors and older privately insured people waited longer for physician appointments.