Last Thursday, the House voted to increase the federal deficit by more than $200 billion in order to prevent drastic Medicare payment reductions for doctors. The final vote was 243 to 183 and was almost entirely on the party line. Only one Republican voted in favor of the increased deficit – Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, who is also an obstetrician. Only 11 Democrats voted against the increase.
The vote and move was controversial; it was voted for by the Democratic-controlled House and denounced by Republicans as a “political payoff,” according to a recent Associated Press article. The payoff, according to Republicans was the Democrats’ way of thanking doctors for supporting President Obama’s healthcare overhaul. The President called the vote “and important step forward” and thanked legislators “for taking action to protect the care and physician choice that Medicare beneficiaries and TRICARE patients have earned.”
What these changes mean for healthcare:
With or without government intervention (depending on your view), doctors are facing a 21 percent reimbursement reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates, beginning in January, 2010. In a snapshot, this means that doctors who have traditionally seen Medicare patients may choose to no longer see Medicare patients, continue to see Medicare patients but receive reduced rates for their services, or continue to receive Medicare patients but reduce their expenses (and perhaps level of services) in order to save money. Regardless of what a doctor chooses to do, it is certain that there will be changes that impact Medicare beneficiaries and doctors across the board.
How to protect yourself from these changes.
As a Medicare beneficiary, what can you do to help ensure that you get the best possible level o healthcare and services from your doctor? One of the best ways you can protect yourself is to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. With a Medicare Advantage plan, you will have more coverage and options than with Original Medicare.
Under such a plan, you may be able to continue to see your current healthcare providers and those providers may receive reimbursements that are higher than the new Medicare reimbursements, helping to ensure a consistent level of service and quality of care even if Medicare reimbursement rates are significantly reduced.
If you’re ready to learn more about Medicare Advantage programs or get started adjusting your Medigap coverage, contact one of our Medicare specialists today by calling Medigap Advisors at 866-323-1441.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.