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Alaska Medicare payments to docs should be slashed, national study says

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:45 am | Updated: 1:55 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

An important new national study says Alaska doctors, who get the highest Medicare payments in the nation,  should have their Medicare payments cut by 15 to 26  percent.

Alaska doctors would see the biggest reductions in payments under a plan to adjust Medicare payments to more accurately reflect the underlying financial situation, according to the report by the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

The report says that a special permanent adjustment in the Social Secuity law governing Medicare payments for Alaska should end.

The Institute of Medicine committee said it is not opposed to targeting areas to improve medical care, but said that those decisions should not be based on geography, but on "demonstrated need."

The states that would see the highest reductions in payments for physicians are Alaska, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. 

Medicare is the largest health program in the country, responsible for about 30 percent of spending on hospital care and 20 percent of doctors' payments. It covers 39 million senior citizens and 8 million disabled people.

While it is a national program costing $525 billion, the amounts paid vary based on a formula that is supposed to account for local costs.

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