Lead author Dr. Tara Bishop of Weill Cornell Medical College, a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics. They found a modest drop in acceptance of Medicare patients -- from 95.5 percent in 2005 to 92.9 percent in 2008 -- but doctors also turned more and more Medicaid patients away during the four-year period, which the authors attribute to Medicaid's historically low reimbursement rates.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found physician acceptance of patients with traditional fee-for-service private insurance declined from 93.3 percent in 2005 to 87.8 percent in 2008.
"Given the medical profession's widely reported dissatisfaction with Medicare, we expected to find hard evidence that Medicare patients were being turned away," Bishop says in a statement. "Instead, we saw only a modest decline in doctors' acceptance of patients on Medicare. The survey data showed a more significant decline in their acceptance of patients with private insurance."
The researchers say this drop may be attributed to reimbursement levels that have not kept pace with medical practice expenditures and/or the tangle of administrative issues that go hand in hand with private health insurance.