NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - More doctors are telling their older patients they'll no longer accept Medicare.
Likewise, poorer patients on Medicaid are receiving similar news. East Texas News visited with one Nacogdoches doctor putting the brakes on Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements and the hardship the decision is causing for patients.
Dr. Kelly Moon is a primary care physician. She has a lower percentage of older patients, so she can afford to place this sign announcing she will no longer accept government insurance.
"It's very bad, and I feel horrible for my patients, and it's a very unfortunate situation," Moon said.
The situation is that doctors are threatened each year by lower reimbursements.
According to the Texas Medical Association, which has 47,000 members, 80 percent of its doctors were taking new Medicare patients in 2000. Last year less than 60 percent of doctors were accepting Medicare patients.
"Smaller offices can't afford to keep up with the regulations," Moon said. "Having to go electronic, having to be audited as much, having to follow per se all the rules coming down."
Moon is saying goodbye to rules requiring her to see more patients, but spend less time with them in order to receive a Medicare reimbursement.
"I see 50 patients a day," Moon said. "I can see a reasonable amount of patients, and spend more time with them."
But Moon's time with Doyle Pittmon will end. The state retired worker's primary method of payment is Medicare.
"I don't know what the solution is," Pittman said. "I'll have to find another doctor who accepts medicare. I don't blame them, but it hurts the patient."
Lyn Hood is seeing the problem nationwide. The full time recreational vehicle enthusiast said "wherever we're parked" is home. If she needs a doctor, she has "to call to find out if they will accept Medicare and as you've mentioned more and more doctors aren't taking medicare."
Pittmon said this is a warning for the 10,000 people who turn 65 each day.
"Growing old is not for sissies," Pittmon said.
Here in East Texas, specialists who cater to an aging population continue to accept Medicare.
However, there is concern as more doctors stop accepting government payment, emergency rooms will get busier than what they are already.