For most Americans, especially Medicare patients, having reliable access to healthcare is a major concern in their lives. Seniors and those with permanent disabilities may be in need of healthcare more than others, and recent reports have surfaced questioning the ability of Medicare recipients to find a doctor. Financial cuts to the program and uncertainty over new policy regulations from lawmakers in Washington have many wondering if there is a doctor shortage for Medicare beneficiaries.
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Foundation, Medicare patients are actually not facing a doctor shortage that is impacting access to good healthcare. The report found that 90 percent of Medicare patients are able to schedule timely and routine appointments with physicians. In fact, Medicare patients were more likely to never have to wait for an appointment compared to those ages 50-64 with private insurance.
There have been stories circulating that warn of doctors turning away low-income and Medicare patients, but the study revealed that most physicians are accepting these patients. Only 2 percent of Medicare patients reported running into trouble finding a physician, a figure comparable to what's reported by those within the private insurance market.
The stories of doctors completely opting out of Medicare may also be untrue. According to the Kaiser Foundation, only 1 percent of physicians have formally opted out of Medicare in clinical practice.
The findings show that most Medicare patients are able to fully realize their healthcare benefits and have access to reliable medical care. Of all Medicare patients, 96 percent said they have usual care, while just 4 percent reported not having a source of usual care.
The 4 percent without usual care were most often part of a subgroup of Medicare. For example, 12 percent of those without usual care were also without supplemental insurance, such as prescriptions drugs plans.
When asked how long it took to get an appointment with a physician, only 12 percent reported that it took 19 days or more. More than half of respondents in the survey said they are able to get an appointment within three days. For those with Medicare Advantage plans, 87 percent reported they are either "usually" or "always" able to get a timely appointment for medical appointments.
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