More doctors turning away Medicare patients

KHOU 11 News – by Larry Seward

HOUSTON – Anyone using Medicare could soon lose doctors. More than half, 58%, of physicians in Texas are threatening or already refusing to accept Medicare payments, according to Texas Medical Association data.

Achari Neurology is a family practice in Hedwig Village. Dr. Reeta Achari says her family boasts five generations of doctors. She practices with her father. Both share one lifelong passion: understanding the brain and treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Dementia.  

“(A neurologists is) kind of a medical detectives and I enjoy that,” Dr. Achari said. “Seeing recovery, reassurance and peace in my patients in their families, that’s the best reward I can have.”

However, instead of seeing patients, Dr. Achari met us in an empty office where she sat at her computer keeping records and wondering when she will begin rejecting the only form of payment most of her patients offer: Medicare.

“We are thinking about coming out of Medicare all together because we’re making less and less money,” she said. “It’s a losing proposition. I can’t help anybody if I can’t keep my doors open.”

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires electronic heath record (EHR) keeping compliance from participating doctors or else. According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, half of participating professionals face financial penalty in 2015.

Dr. Achari treats some of those doctors for stress related to trying to keep their practice viable.

“We’re going to take a cut (in Medicare payments) every year as we’re seeing these patients,” Dr. Achari said.

Already, Dr. Achari reports suffering 10% in cuts over the last five years. Next year, she anticipates an extra 7% pay cut.

So why not just obey the rules and avoid penalties altogether? Texas Medical Association members argue that doing so gives them less time with patients and goes against ACA’s goal of providing patients better care.

“It’s not something I feel good about,” Dr. Achari said. “I want to see these patients. But, I want to keep my doors open.”

So, on days off, Dr. Achari often works hoping to hang on to her patients and her passion.

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