TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Some Texas doctors are signing a petition that could effect millions of Texans on Medicare. The Texas Medical Association started the petition, urging Congress to permanently fix the gap in Medicare funding. An East Texas doctor says this gap is crippling the system. It impacts not only doctors, but all Medicare patients.
Medicare has helped take care of Jessie Press's health costs for more than a decade. She says all of her doctors accept the coverage. "I haven't had a bit of trouble." she said. The story is the same for Martha Roberson who said, "All the doctors that I have ever been to right here in this town took it."
Other senior citizens are singing a different tune. They say it's near impossible to find a doctor who will accept new Medicare patients. "I had to find a new doctor," said Marguerite Lee. "Well, I called one doctor, and he would not take me. They said, we are not taking any Medicare patients."
Dr. Ken Haygood stopped taking new Medicare patients years ago and said, "A lot of people don't realize that Medicare itself isn't able to pay enough for patients to get care. So, physicians and hospitals usually can't get by on Medicare patients alone."
A large cut in Medicare payments to physicians went into effect at the start of the month, stemming from economic problems. Dr. Haygood says Congress may put an extension on the cut, but a temporary fix is not enough. "The politicians in Congress have, for years, continued to kick the problem down the road and not deal with the problem, and it has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger...that's how this percentage of a cut has grown to 21 percent," he said.
If the Medicare coverage gap is not fixed permanently, Dr. Haygood says many physicians will stop taking Medicare patients all together. He said, "It will be a big problem, and one of the things that sometimes patients have to do is find care where they can simply get care and pay for it themselves."
In response to Texas doctors' reaction to the Medicare cut, Press said, "You can't blame the doctors, I'm not mad at the doctor, I'm mad our government." Roberson added, "A lot of people are getting worried."