Publication Date: January 2006
Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change
Author(s): Peter J. Cunningham; Andrea Staiti; Paul B. Ginsburg
Research Area: Health
Despite an earlier Medicare payment rate reduction, the proportion of U.S. physicians accepting Medicare patients stabilized in 2004-05, with nearly three-quarters saying their practices were open to all new Medicare patients, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). In 2004-05, 72.9 percent of physicians reported accepting all new Medicare patients, statistically unchanged from 71.1 percent in 2000-01. Only 3.4 percent of physicians reported that their practices were completely closed to new Medicare patients in 2004-05, also statistically unchanged from 2000-01. These trends indicate the decline in Medicare physician access observed between 1996-97 and 2000-01 leveled off in 2004-05. In fact, Medicare beneficiariesâ€™ access to primary care physicians increased between 2000-01 and 2004-05, reversing an earlier decline. Among privately insured patients, trends in physician access are similar to those for Medicare patients, suggesting that overall health system dynamics have played a larger role in physician decisions about accepting Medicare patients than have Medicare payment policies.