Reports of Mayo Not Accepting Medicare Greatly Exaggerated
Mayo Clinic’s decision to stop accepting Medicare patients at a Glendale, Ariz. facility was not well received, but the health care giant says a misunderstanding caused most of the backlash. “Some recent media reports have inaccurately stated that Mayo Clinic in Arizona is no longer seeing any Medicare patients. This is not true,” spokesperson Lee Aase writes in a Mayo Clinic Health Policy Blog, posted Jan. 5.
“Rather,” the blogger continues, “a five-physician Mayo Clinic Arizona family practice clinic in Glendale, Ariz. has opted out of Medicare as part of a Mayo Clinic time-limited trial that will be reviewed at its conclusion.” The Mayo Clinic in Arizona continues to provide care for thousands of Medicare patients. Although reports may have been blown out of proportion, just one clinic opting out of Medicare affects many.
Mayo Clinic spokesman Michael Yardley said, “More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at the Mayo family clinic in Glendale.” As a result, “We’ve had many patients call us and express their unhappiness,” Yardley said. “It’s not been a pleasant experience.” (Bloomberg)
The decision to no longer accept Medicare payments for primary care visits at the Glendale, Ariz. facility is a financial one. “Mayo Clinic loses a substantial amount of money every year due to the reimbursement schedule under Medicare,” according to the Mayo blogger. Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Lynn Closway said the Mayo organization lost $840 million in 2008 on Medicare—$120 million of that loss occurred at Mayo’s hospital and four clinics in Arizona. Nationwide, doctors made about 20 percent less in 2007 for treating Medicare patients than they did caring for privately insured patients, according to a March report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).
Stakeholders fear the decision to stop accepting Medicare at the Glendale clinic will form a trend. When patients with private insurance can be treated at 50 to 100 percent higher fees, “Then Medicare does indeed look like a poor payer,” said Robert Berenson, a fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C. (Bloomberg)
While 92 percent of U.S. family doctors participate in Medicare, only 73 percent are accepting new patients under the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), in a telephone interview with Bloomberg reporter David Olmos.
Heralding health care reform, Aase said on behalf of the Mayo Clinic, “Providers who do fewer unnecessary tests and services are paid the least, and they are the doctors and hospitals which will go out of business first if we don’t change the payment system.”