After a quarter century of practicing medicine Dr. Robert Van Zant says it's among the toughest calls he's had to make, but he and fellow physicians at Village Family Practice are shutting the door to new patients covered by Medicare.
The third largest group of primary care doctors in the Houston area claims the government insurer's red tape and mandate of electronic record keeping very nearly strangled their business, so they had to act.
"New burdens, restrictions on medicines we can prescribe, restrictions on labs we can do, surgeries we can refer for," said Van Zant.
and then there's Medicare's compensation which for Doctors hasn't risen substantially since 2001.
"Can you imagine going to the auto workers and telling them you are not going to get a raise in 13 years. It would not happen," said Van Zant.
and yet in 2014 Van Zant says physicians will again face a 30 percent cut in the rate Medicare pays for their services.
That's not to mention the unclear impact of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. Van Zant predicts a crisis.
"I think some of the burdens of the Affordable Care Act are really going to strike home next year there are expenses and surprises in that that we haven't even dreamt of yet, but the Affordable Care Act is going to be a financial disaster and its certainly not going to help Medicare," said Van Zant.
Turns out Van Zant and the doctors at Village have plenty of company, the Texas Medical Association says 40 percent of the state's physicians have stopped taking new Medicare patients.
"It brought this practice to a crawl," said Van Zant.
For its part Medicare claims the problem is not widespread reporting fewer than 10,000 doctors across the country have opted out of the program in the past two years.
Van Zant says Village Family Practice treats more than 8,000 existing patients currently on Medicare and will continue to do so.