Medicare changes for seniors with multiple chronic illnesses

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CORDOVA, Tenn. -- If you or your loved ones are on Medicare, there are changes being made you need to know about.

These changes affect senior citizens specifically and could help keep people healthier.

"The driving force behind this is an attempt to keep patients from getting sick enough to go to the hospital and incurring even more medical costs," said Dr. Jeff Mullins with Midsouth Family Medicine.

The goal of the new program is to better coordinate care and help patients stay healthier between doctor visits.

"It could be everything from multiple phone calls to the patient or could be telemetry medicine, where we actually have daily rates, or daily blood pressure readings coming in from the patient that's going to be coordinating with your chart," Mullins said.

Medicare will pay primary care doctors a $40 monthly fee per qualified patient. However, to earn that fee, doctors have to come up with a care plan for each patient and spend time each month coordinating their care with other providers and monitoring medications.

Mullins worries the program may not be practical for providers, "The increased reimbursement is probably not going to be enough to make it worth while for physicians to participate."

However, he said it is a step in the right direction, even if the program will need adjustments in the future.

"This is one step in which physicians will be reimbursed based on a complete management of population, rather than just being paid for doctors visits," said Mullins.

He said there are other Medicare changes happening, such as premiums increasing on some plans.

To compare different plans, go to www.medicare.gov.

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