Fewer Cedar Rapids Doctors Accept Medicare Beneficiaries

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - One doctor says future Medicare patients might have a harder time finding a doctor. A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians said 71% of doctors will take new Medicare patients. But that's more than 20% fewer then they currently serve. The biggest reason cited is how little the government reimburses doctors for their services, but one doctor we talked to say the Affordable Care Act is adding to the problem.

There are doctors who are turning away new Medicare patients. That's because Iowa already has one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country for Medicare patients. That's already created a shortage of doctors in the state, willing to treat Medicare recipients over the past few years. Now, some local doctors say it's only going to get worse.

"If I didn't have that, I couldn't go to a doctor," said Medicare recipient Linda Ahrens.

70 year old Linda Ahrens relies on Medicare for health insurance. And she's needed plenty of treatments.

"Arthritis, I've had three brain surgeries," said Ahrens.

Ahrens is one of 49 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide. But many doctors in Cedar Rapids, including one well-known specialist, won't accept any new Medicare patients after the first of the year.

"We already have a massive shortage of physicians especially in Iowa where we're in a rural state that just don't get the proper Medicare reimbursement compared to the rest of the country," said Family Physician Dr. Mark Goedken.

Family Physician Doctor Mark Goedken says it's becoming more of a hassle than it's worth to treat Medicare patients. The reasons are two-fold. First, he says Obamacare requires him to do more paperwork and get a costly upgrade to electronic medical records. On top of that, a lack of action from Congress to address Medicare reimbursements mean his already low payments will be even lower when the New Year starts.

"As payments go down as Obamacare threatens, do we want to sacrifice our free time for really nothing?" asked Goedken.

Doctor Goedken says he hasn't accepted Medicare beneficiaries in years. Other doctors in town are following suit. A scary trend for Ahrens who says physicians should help those in need and take a cut in profit.

"If he's a physician, he should help everybody, not just be after the money," said Ahrens.

Doctor Goedken says it's not a matter of taking less profit. He says medicare regulations mean he has less time to spend with patients and that's not worth his time. He compares it to working overtime and not getting paid for it, eventually, that wears you out.
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