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SOCIAL SECURITY: Medicare Cuts Affect Fresno Patient Care

April 7, 2010

Fresno – More than 220,000 central San Joaquin Valley patients who rely on Medicare will have difficulty getting medical attention if the cut on doctor’s reimbursement pay continues.

Many doctors have expressed disappointment over the cut as they fear that the pay reduction could force many of them to drop out of the insurance program.

One of the Valley doctors, Dr. Cynthia Bergmann, who is a gynecologist from Fresno, remarked: “If this cut goes through, we will not be able to see new Medicare patients. And we will have to look hard at what we have to do with our current patients, whether we can afford to take care of them”.

As Congress has cut doctor’s reimbursement by about 21.2 per cent this month, some doctors have already curtailed Medicare practices, although majority of them is still waiting to see what happens.

In the past Congress has repealed the cuts and it could still do the same in this year’s reduction.

Many Valley doctors however, will be eligible for a 10 per cent Medicare pay increase next year as part of the health reform package.

Medicare payments are determined by a formula known as SGR or sustainable growth rate, which is based on the gross domestic product. This means that when the economy is booming, rates could go up. But as the economy is in recession, the rates were also affected. The payment rate was established in 1997 to cut Medicare costs.

Doctors hope Congress would change the formula to reflect the rising health-care costs.

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