Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Physicians Ask State Legislators to Help Doctors Care for Medicare/Medicaid Patients

Dozens of physicians from the Texas border and across the state held a news conference today urging Texas leaders to solve the medical emergency plaguing patients and physicians, by fully reversing budget cuts that threaten health care for hundreds of thousands of “dual-eligible” Texans. "Dual-eligible" patients are people old enough to qualify for Medicare as their health insurer, and poor enough to qualify for Medicaid assistance.

“We’re asking that Texas restore funding for Medicare/Medicaid dual-eligible patients,” said Laredo family physician Luis Benavides, MD, vice-chair of the Border Health Caucus. With restored funding, he said, Texas physicians “can continue to keep our doors open, and we can continue to provide the care our patients deserve.”

For more than a year now, these patients’ health care funding has been cut. As a result, the physicians who care for them have been forced to tap savings, obtain loans, and trim staff to keep their offices open. Ultimately the cut forced many doctors to retire early, move out of the Rio Grande Valley, and even out of the state. This affected patients’ ability to see a doctor, creating a medical emergency that continues today. After months of pleas, Texas leadership recently restored part of the cut, but the rest is still in place, and more help is needed.

Texas Medical Association president-elect Stephen Brotherton, MD, said at the news conference that already too many doctors have made the tough decision to limit office hours, retire, or relocate. “If you take too long to fix a problem, [the physicians] who have left won’t come back,” he warned. “If we don’t fix this now, it becomes unfixable.”

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