Number of Physicians Opting Out of Medicare Triples

The number of physicians who opted out of Medicare in 2012 nearly tripled from three years prior, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Physicians who opt out still represent a small portion of healthcare professionals in the country, but other physicians are limiting the number of Medicare patients they treat even if they don't formally opt out.  

CMS said 9,539 physicians who had accepted Medicare opted out of the program in 2012. That figure was roughly 2.5 times lower in 2009 at 3,700. That compares with 685,000 physicians who were enrolled to participate in in Medicare last year.

The Wall Street Journal said this is the first time CMS has released annual opt-out figures. "All told, health experts say the number of doctors going 'off-grid' isn't enough to undermine the Affordable Care Act, but they say some Americans may have difficulty finding doctors who will take their new benefits or face long waits for appointments with those who do," according to the report.

Medicare's relatively low reimbursement is one commonly cited reason for dropping out of the program. Other physicians opt out to avoid deeper government involvement in medicine, such as penalties in 2015 for those physicians who do not demonstrate meaningful use with their electronic health records, according to the report.

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