Saturday, November 01, 2014
   
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Medicare cuts could hit doctors hard

Local physician not too worried unless reductions continue.

If Congress cuts fees 27% for the treatment of Medicare and Medicaid patients, the level of care will not change for one local doctor.

“Would it affect me taking caring of patients?” asked local physician David Hult. “No.”

However if the proposed budget-tightening reduction passed, and remained in place for more than a year, Hult said it would significantly impact his business. He noted that about 60% of his patients receive Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Payroll is Hult’s biggest expense followed by supplies, rent, insurance and other costs. He is one of three doctors and two physician assistants at Gothenburg Family Practice.

At this point, Hult isn’t too concerned about the proposal since Congress has considered slicing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and hospitals but hasn’t followed through.

Around the holidays last year, a proposed cut of about 20% was thwarted.

Gothenburg Memorial Hospital administrator John Johnson described the proposal as a huge, potential hit to the pocketbooks of doctors, especially those who practice in rural areas.

“If payments are cut, it will have a dramatic effect on how health care is delivered in the Midwest to the poor and elderly,” Johnson said.

On a related proposal, that targets cost-based Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to critical access hospitals—like GMH—Johnson said the cuts under consideration are 1-2%, which wouldn’t affect the local hospital significantly.

He noted that the hospitals, which became CAHs in the early 1990s, were known as frontier hospitals in isolated places.

Since then, Johnson said medical facilities, with characteristics such as large outpatient populations, have become CAHs. That has increased the pot of money available and made it more noticeable for potential cuts by Congress.

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