LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Medicare patients and doctors are in the midst of a meltdown, waiting on Congress to make a decision. Since April 1, doctors have not been reimbursed by Medicare. Some doctors say they could be forced to shut their doors if the 21.2 percent pay cut takes effect.
Curtis Garrett, 71, is a Medicare patient and fears he won't have a doctor if Congress enacts the 21.2 percent pay cut.
"I'm sick and if the doctor can't see me then I have no alternative, but just suffer," said Garrett.
Medicare patients keep Dr. Prasad Peddu's waiting room full; they make up 80 percent of his practice. But for the last two weeks, he hasn't seen a dime of Medicare reimbursements. He said he can't go on much longer.
"I may pull out of this Medicare participation," he said.
Dr. Thomas Duncan understands both sides. He's on Medicare and treats Medicare patients.
"Sixty-six percent of the patients in this office yesterday were Medicare so it's going to be difficult to carry that load," said Dr. Duncan.
The bottom line: Dr. Duncan said the pay cuts will make it impossible for him to pay overhead costs.
"If it's costing us more to do business then we can take in obviously we can't stay in business," he said.
As painful as it may be, Garrett said he'd learn to live with the changes.
"If the doctor don't get paid, he aint going to see us, can't blame him and we aint got the money to pay him with, we just suffer," said Garrett.
Dr. William Strinden already made the tough decision to cut Medicare patients from his practice as of April 1. He said in order to fix the current system, Medicare must take steps to establish a means to decide what services aren't to be covered. He called the current system a scheme that simply doesn't work.
"It's unfair to the patients who have paid into it and it's unfair to the doctors who have relied upon it," said Dr. Strinden.
It's a waiting game for Medicare patients and doctors. They're waiting on a decision that's ultimately in the hands of lawmakers.
"It's very unfair, but I'm not sure the people making the decisions are touched by the problem," said Dr. Duncan.
It's a problem that could leave Medicare doctors with empty exam rooms, and scarce treatment for Medicare patients.
Currently 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women in Angelina County are age 65 or older. Lawmakers are expected to make a decision on the pay cut Wednesday.