Fewer Primary Care Doctors Take Medicare
- Anchorage Daily News, Rosemary Shinohara
February 19, 2007
After Henry Taylor's doctor moved to Homer, Taylor, who is 77, needed two things: an Anchorage physician to prescribe drugs for diabetes and other ailments, and relief for his aching back.
He didn't realize his lungs were quietly killing him. He didn't find out until it was too late because he is on Medicare, and doctor after doctor refused to see him.
There's a crisis in health care for Alaska's older residents: Few primary care doctors take new patients on Medicare, the federal insurance program for people 65 and older.
The crisis is not new, but evidence indicates it is worsening.
Alaska is short of primary care doctors in general. And many of them say they can afford to treat only limited numbers of Medicare patients, if any, because the rates are too low -- often less than half what a doctor normally charges.
"When you get close to 23 to 25 percent of your visits from Medicare patients, you're going bankrupt," said Dr. Bruce Kiessling of Primary Care Associates, the largest primary care group in the state. "We do not take new Medicare, not at all."
Primary Care keeps existing patients who age into Medicare.
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