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An uncertain future for Medicare patients

Posted Mar 11 2010 5:59pm

By Ed Howe
Former president and CEO, Aurora Health Care

In recent months the Mayo Clinic announced their primary care facility near my home in Phoenix would no longer be accepting Medicare. Then the fun began.

One of their competitors, Arrowhead Health, put up a billboard saying, “Mayo may not take your Medicare any longer, but we still do… and always will.”  You can see what that billboard looked like by clicking here . Mayo has since used their muscle to get the sign taken down.

While all this has been entertaining, the serious question is: Will President Obama’s healthcare plan result in more or less access for the elderly under Medicare? I suspect that an unintended result, if the existing reform bill is passed, may be less care, not more.

As a healthcare professional, this makes me sad. But I understand from a physician’s point of view that they need to make a living.

If I were the patient who found out he no longer had the coverage for his doctor, I would be very upset. That is why I preach to my friends on Medicare to find a young doctor before they are sick. Many doctors will not take new Medicare patients, but most will keep their existing patients.

The Associated Press reports that while the health reform plan being considered would close a coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, there still would be cuts in Medicare spending. One other thing to be aware of is that the Medicare payroll tax may soon apply to investment earnings and capital gains rather than to just a worker’s wages. Yes, it has been discussed.

So perhaps we will see others follow in Mayo’s footsteps when it comes to saying goodbye to Medicare patients. I hope that is not the case. But there are many variables to this ever-changing healthcare landscape. Some changes will be good, others may not be ideal.


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