GAO issues report on physician payment

The Government Accountability Office yesterday handed the Senate Finance Committee ammunition to oppose increased physician payments in Medicare. A GAO report requested by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) posited that, despite a 5.4 percent cut in physician payments in 2002, Medicare patients experienced no decrease in access to doctors later that year.

The Government Accountability Office yesterday handed the Senate Finance Committee ammunition to oppose increased physician payments in Medicare.


A GAO report requested by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) posited that, despite a 5.4 percent cut in physician payments in 2002, Medicare patients experienced no decrease in access to doctors later that year.


A Finance Committee aide who works on Medicare issues said the report could rebut attempts to increase Medicare physician payments.


The American Medical Association disputed the GAO findings. Nancy Nielsen, an AMA board member, said in a statement that “more recent evidence” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that patient access is a problem. The statement also said 24 percent of family physicians did not accept new Medicare patients according to one study.


The House Ways and Means Committee could not be reached for comment.