Examining Medicare on its 48th Year

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare program into law. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has played a significant role in how the Medicare program operates as healthcare continues to be reformed.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare program into law. Millions of elderly became eligible for extended healthcare coverage, saving countless persons from being unable to seek treatment. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has played a significant role in how the Medicare program operates as healthcare continues to be reformed.

For instance, recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data found that more than 9500 physicians who had previously accepted Medicare patients decided to depart from the program last year. Compared with the 3700 doctors who left in 2009, the numbers appear staggering.

Paul Ginsburg, president of Center for Studying Health System Change, stated: “There are a lot of physicians, particularly older physicians, who say, ‘I don't want to do this. Let me run out the rest of my career practicing like I’ve always done.’”

Physicians blame doctors’ refusal to take Medicare patients on payment rates not meeting inflation, and expressed concern about increasing government regulations. In 2015, Medicare will begin to penalize those doctors who fail to use electronic medical records based on quality measures. By 2026, program funding is expected to run out as the 77 million baby boomers reach eligibility.

On the other hand, CMS also recently reported that more than 6.6 million Medicare patients saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of the ACA. An additional 16.5 million people took advantage of at least 1 free preventive service within the first 6 months of 2013.

“Medicare is much stronger as a result of the health care law,” Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services, said. “Spending has slowed to historic levels, as seniors are enjoying enhanced benefits and greater savings on drugs.”

As with other sectors of healthcare, Medicare is certainly experiencing growing pains through reform. Nevertheless, it seems that those who need the services most—the elderly—are benefiting as a result of the ACA. While concern about reimbursement is understandable, as more physicians reject Medicare, patients will have fewer options in selecting providers, and that certainly raises questions as to who will help all those baby boomers.

Around the Web

Fed-up Doctors are Fleeing Medicare [MSN]

On Eve of Medicare Anniversary, Over 6.6 Million Seniors Save Over $7 Billion on Drugs [CMS]