According to ophthalmologists Medicare cuts that went into effect March 1, 2013, have the potential to have long lasting and profound effects on eyecare. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions that affect the eyes. To better understand how these cuts would affect the way ophthalmologist practice, the American Academy of Ophthalmology sent out a detailed questionnaire to their members. The results of the survey cemented the theory that these cuts had the potential to be incredibly detrimental. In fact, the study suggests these cuts could put those who depend on Medicare to cover their costs of eyecare in jeopardy.
WHAT IS BEING CUT FROM MEDICARE?
The sequestration budget cuts went into effect in March 1, 2013. The cuts are a direct result of the country’s dire economic situation. These cuts equal $85 billion and include a 2% reduction in Medicare spending. While that number seems minuet, it actually isn’t. In fact, it equals out to be billions of dollars less in revenue each year. These cuts are being made across the board, but quality healthcare has a great deal to lose as a result of these cuts.
THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY SURVEY
In order to demonstrate the drastic effects that the cuts will have on ophthalmologists, the American Academy of Ophthalmology sent out a survey to ophthalmologists effected by the cuts. Out of surveys sent, the Academy had about 1,450, ophthalmologists return the survey. The results of the survey confirmed the Academy’s suspicion that the Medicare spending cuts have the potential to put quality eyecare in jeopardy. The results of the survey can be found below.
*The most profound finding in the study is that 72% of American Academy of Ophthalmology members said they would be forced to make choices that would negatively affect their ability to treat Medicare patients.
*Due to Medicare spending cuts, 43% of ophthalmologists surveyed said they would have to stop accepting new Medicare patients.
*28% of those surveyed, stated they would have to agree to only see Medicare patients on an urgent need basis, which means they could not afford to see patients for routine, or diagnostic eyecare.
*20% of ophthalmologists stated they believe the Medicare spending cuts will negatively impact seniors ability to access quality care.
*The study stated that up to 11% of the surveyed participants said as a result of the severe cuts, they may have to end their participation with Medicare altogether.
HOW THESE MEDICARE CUTS WILL EFFECT QUALITY EYECARE FOR SENIORS
The Medicare cuts will decrease the amount of reimbursement that providers will receive. It also means that it may be more difficult to get Medicare to pay for diagnostic tests Medicare had paid for before. This is important because a high percentage of Americans rely solely on Medicare for their healthcare benefits. This means that these Americans often don’t have the finances to pay for additional healthcare that is not covered with Medicare.
On the other hand, ophthalmologists have to make money to pay their overhead and make a living. With the cuts in Medicare spending, ophthalmologists will see their revenue cuts, and like all businesses that means they will have to make cuts as well.
This is monumental because 23 million Americans ages 65 and older suffer from age-related eye diseases. The most common eye diseases affecting seniors include macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. The older these patients get the great their chances increase of developing these potentially devastating diseases. For this reason, it is important that senior citizens can access quality healthcare that they can afford and that ophthalmologists have the resources to provide what seniors need to stay healthy.
WHY MEDICARE SPENDING CUTS NEED TO BE ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY
According to the 2010 census, the number of seniors 65 and older, which are also the people at the greatest risk of developing debilitating eye diseases, is expected to double in the next quarter century. If the spending cuts that are affecting quality eyecare are not addressed immediately, the problems ophthalmologists and seniors face will only continue to get worse.
HOW THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY IS ADDRESSING THE MEDICARE SPENDING CUTS
Collectively the American Academy of Ophthalmology is using the information gathered in the study to show legislatures the importance of quality eyecare on citizens. The Academy is conscience of the country’s dire economic situation, but doesn’t feel that sacrificing the sight of many seniors all over the country is a risk that they can sit back and let happen without a fight.
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