AARP: Seniors worried about doctors dropping Medicare

Politicians looking to woo older constituents of all political stripes should consider pushing for an extended delay to scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, according to a survey of AARP members released Monday.

Of the 809 Connecticut AARP members surveyed, 84 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned that doctors might stop treating Medicare patients because of the impending cut, and 82 percent said they would be somewhat or much more favorable toward their Senators if they fought to stop it.

The cut is the result of a formula intended to limit the growth of Medicare spending. Congress routinely overrides the payment cuts the formula calls for, but this year, it has postponed the cuts for shorter periods of time and waited until closer to – or after – the deadline to postpone them, creating concern among doctors and patients. Last week, Congress staved off a 23 percent cut that was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, pushing it back by one month; it was the fifth temporary “patch” this year. Another cut is slated to go into effect Jan. 1.

Agreeing on a long-term solution could be a major challenge for politicians. AARP is urging Congress to postpone the next scheduled cut for one year to give policymakers more time to work out a long-term solution. AARP Connecticut State Director Brenda Kelley said advocates want to spend energy on a permanent fix, not fighting for another temporary delay in payment cuts.

“Probably the solution isn’t going to be something that any of us are going to totally love, but it’s got to be better than every month we fix it for another month,” she said at a press conference Monday, where AARP Connecticut was joined by the Connecticut State Medical Society. “That’s not the way to do this.”

The threat of the cuts has led some doctors to limit the number of Medicare patients they treat, and a survey released last week by the medical society indicated that more could do so if a permanent fix isn’t found.