Arizona Mayo Clinic Ditching Medicare

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Posted: Jan 04, 2010 3:03 PM
One of the hospitals previously praised by President Barack Obama as an exemplary and efficient health care institution now says it's dumping its services to Medicare patients because the government is... well, just too cheap. 

The Washington Examiner reports:
        More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman. The decision, which Yardley called a two-year pilot project, won’t affect other Mayo facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

    Obama in June cited the nonprofit Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for offering “the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm.” Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in a telephone interview Thursday.

    “Many physicians have said, ‘I simply cannot afford to keep taking care of Medicare patients,’ ” said Heim, a family doctor who practices in Laurinburg, N.C. “If you truly know your business costs and you are losing money, it doesn’t make sense to do more of it.”

    The Mayo organization had 3,700 staff physicians and scientists and treated 526,000 patients in 2008. It lost $840 million last year on Medicare, the government’s health program for the disabled and those 65 and older, Mayo spokeswoman Lynn Closway said.

    Mayo’s hospital and four clinics in Arizona, including the Glendale facility, lost $120 million on Medicare patients last year, Yardley said. The program’s payments cover about 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients at the Glendale clinic, he added.

    Nationwide, doctors made about 20 percent less for treating Medicare patients than they did caring for privately insured patients in 2007, a payment gap that has remained stable during the last decade, according to a March report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a panel that advises Congress on Medicare issues. Congress last week postponed for two months a 21.5 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors.