Denver Doctor: Cardiologists Bear Brunt Of Medicare Cost Cuts

Heart Centers Warn Of Possible Office Closures, Program Cutbacks

Two of Denver's largest cardiovascular care facilities are sounding the alarm about the effects of impending cuts in Medicare reimbursement.

Although Congress has placed a hold on a planned across the board cut of 21 percent for all doctors, the American College of Cardiology said it appears that additional cuts for cardiology services will take effect Jan. 1.

"The cuts are primarily in diagnostic imaging," said Dr. Karyl VanBenthuysen, president of South Denver Cardiology Associates.

VanBenthuysen said the cuts will have a significant impact on South Denver's revenue stream.

"That will influence our ability to provide access for patients," he said. "We may have to close peripheral offices and cut back on educational programs, including cooking, wellness and stress reduction classes."

The CEO of Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates told 7NEWS that the impending Medicare cuts means doctors there will have to make some very hard decisions.

"Our staff has not had a raise since 2007," Ina Roberts said.

When asked why cardiologists seem to be bearing the brunt of the proposed cuts, VanBenthuysen said, "I don’t think it was an insidious plan to get cardiologists. I think there was a bureaucratic snafu of huge proportions."

VanBenthuysen said the additional cuts are a result of a flawed survey that shows overhead costs going down.

"They're not," he said.

VanBenthuysen added that if cardiologists can't afford to offer the diagnostic imaging tests then patients may have to go elsewhere to get them.

"It will cost patients more to have those same services provided at hospitals," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Medical Society told 7NEWS, “The cuts are a very scary and real problem for all physicians.”

Edie Sonn, the Medical Society’s director of public affairs, said the across the board cuts have been put off until March.

"I have full confidence that everyone in Colorado’s delegation will do the right thing and pass bills to fix the flawed payment formula to insure that all doctors are paid at the level they need to serve patients," Sonn said.