Medicare Mayhem: Beach woman struggles to find doctor

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by Janet Roach

WVEC.com

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 2:47 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- It may be the number one form of health insurance for seniors, but that doesn't mean Medicare patients always get care.

Virginia Beach resident Gerry Richter is fed up with rejection from doctors refusing to add new Medicare patients to their rolls. She's made about 70 calls looking for a family doctor.

"It's very very difficult. Why is it so hard? At this point, impossible," says Richter.

Richter has been fairly healthy until a recent bout with an infection in her intestines.  After receiving treatment in the emergency room, she was told she needed to follow-up with her family doctor. She can't find one. "Calling and calling and calling day after day," she describes.

The problem is low Medicare reimbursements are scaring doctors away from accepting new patients. Some are even opting out of Medicare altogether. Medicare sets the rate for payment and doctors can't negotiate.

Lisa Walker is a medicare expert with the Peninsula Agency on Aging.  She says she's heard from other seniors who are finding it difficult to locate doctors taking new Medicare patients. She says there are very specific questions patients should ask their doctors before becoming eligible for Medicare.

"Is it going to be a problem? I'm turning 65 and I'm going on Medicare and can I continue to see you?" says Walker.  She says patients can go on Medicare's website and use the Physician Compare tool to find a Medicare doctor; however, she warns it's not always updated. It's the same problem with physician referral programs with Sentara, Bon Secours,and Riverside. The operators say it's hard to keep the lists updated with so many doctors opting out or refusing to accept new patients.

With the help of the 13News Troubleshooter, Richter was able to find one doctor but could not get an appointment until July. She's hoping another patient will cancel.

 

 

Looking for a Medicare Provider?  Try the numbers below.

 1-800-Medicare

 Sentara Physician Referral program- 757-736-8272

 Bon Secours- 757-886-6700

 Riverside Senior Care Navigator- 1-877-287-6061

 

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