Health care overhaul may create provider shortage, doctors say

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Dr. Jack Beller, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Norman and practices in Chickasha, said that day could come soon if the government doesn’t make some changes to better fund its health care program.

It’s up to physicians to decide if they’re going to see patients using Medicare and Medicaid. So could there come a day when patients will be technically covered for health care by the government but won’t be able to find a doctor to see them?

“There are more (doctors) each year that are not signing contracts with Medicare or Medicaid,” he said. It’s not a vast exodus from the program, he said, but rather a gradual increase in doctors refusing those patients.

The solution? Beller said it’s about money.

The federal government has a standard that indicates how much physicians will get paid for each service, Beller said. The insurance companies base their payments off this standard, he said.

By the end of 2010, there is a projected federal decrease in physician pay for Medicare and Medicaid patient services by 25 percent, Beller said.

If the payments aren’t decreased that much, the government won’t be able to keep its health care programs in the black, he said. However, for the past several years the government has put off making the cuts for payments it needs to make, he said. Instead, Congress keeps payments essentially at the same level and finds funds from other areas to make up the difference, he said.

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