Survey: 75% of physicians accepting new Medicare patients

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Almost 75 percent of physicians were accepting all or most new Medicare patients and the vast majority of physicians had managed care contracts in 2008, according to findings released Sept. 3 from the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the survey includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians who provide at least 20 hours per week of direct patient care. The survey had a 62 percent response rate.

"Physicians' clinical decisions affect how up to 90 percent of every healthcare dollar is spent, so understanding how physicians are organized and practice medicine is critical for policy makers, especially as they engage in the most serious discussion of comprehensive healthcare reform in 15 years," said HSC President Paul B. Ginsburg, PhD.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Almost 75 percent of U.S. physicians were men in 2008. However, for physicians under age 40, slightly more than 41 percent were women.
  • Three out of four physicians identified themselves as white, non-Hispanic, while 3.8 percent were black, non-Hispanic, 5.3 percent were Hispanic and 17.2 percent were Asian or other races. However, among physicians under age 40, about two-thirds were white and 33 percent were minority-black (4 percent), Hispanic (5.4 percent) and Asian or other race (24 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of physicians worked in solo or two-physician practices, 15 percent worked in groups of three to five physicians and 19 percent worked in practices of six to 50 physicians.
  • More than 80 percent of physicians surveyed worked full time, more than half (53 percent) were 40 to 55 years old, and almost four in 10 have practiced medicine for more than 20 years. Nine in 10 physicians were board certified, and 22 percent received their medical training outside of the United States or Canada. Almost 40 percent were primary care physicians, 35 percent were medical specialists and 26 percent were surgeons.
  • A slight majority of physicians (56 percent) were either full or part owners of their practices, while 44 percent were employees or independent contractors.
  • In 2008, 44 percent of physicians reported receiving some form of performance-adjusted salary, for example, an adjustment based on their own productivity. Roughly a quarter indicated payment by fixed salary, and 20 percent received a share of practice revenue.
  • Slightly more than half of physicians (53 percent) reported their practices were accepting all or most new Medicaid patients; 28 percent reported accepting no new Medicaid patients. Almost nine in 10 physicians \reported their practices were accepting all or most new privately insured patients, and almost three-quarters reported their practices accept all or most new Medicare patients.
  • The vast majority of physicians (87 percent) had managed care contracts in 2008. Compared with physicians with one or more managed care contracts, physicians without managed care contracts were more likely to have practiced for more than 20 years, work fewer than 40 hours per week, lack board certification, work in solo or two-physician practices, live in the western United States and report practicing in a "non-competitive" environment.
  • Slightly fewer than six in 10 physicians provided charity care in 2008.

The survey findings are detailed in a new HSC Data Bulletin— available here.