Oklahoma City – 75-year-old Frank Archey gets good advice on his golf game from his grandsons. But when it comes to his healthcare, he turns to physicians with the Oklahoma City Clinic.

“My wife and I are fortunate,” explains Archey. “We have an excellent doctor to take care of us.”

Other senior citizens – those 65 and older and eligible for Medicare – may not be so lucky. With low reimbursement rates for doctors, fewer and fewer physicians are accepting new Medicare patients.

“We checked the state licensure board database. I was shocked to see that 45 percent of licensed physicians in Oklahoma are not participating in Medicare,” says Denise Suttles, CEO of Oklahoma City Clinic.

She points out that the situation will become critical in the next few years as baby boomers age.

“It’s estimated that the number of Medicare eligible people will double in Oklahoma County alone by 2013,” says Suttles. “We’ll need to have more doctors available to take care of our aging population.”

Soonerpoll.com – an Oklahoma City-based opinion polling organization – conducted a survey of metro physicians this summer at a time when Congress was taking up the issue of lowering physician Medicare reimbursement rates by more than 10 percent.

The poll found that approximately one out of every four offices would either stop treating their current Medicare patients or reduce the number as a result of lower reimbursements.

The survey also showed that one out of every seven Medicare practices would keep treating current Medicare patients – but would not accept new Medicare patients if rates were slashed.

Congress has given the issue a reprieve for 18 months. But healthcare professionals warn the issue must be addressed every year to ensure that Medicare cuts to physician pay do not occur.

“We’re dedicated to the product of Medicare,” says Suttles. “We have planned well and made investments in resources and a network of physicians to continue serving the Medicare population.”

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