Are Tucson doctors accepting new Medicare patients?

My primary care doctor is not accepting new patients, whether they are on Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or any health insurance.  But he is kind of old and his Physician Assistant takes new patients – but I don’t know how much longer that will last.

I know a couple of other doctors who are not taking new patients, so I wondered if this is a trend.  So I made some phone calls to ask the question, “Is the doctor accepting new Medicare patients?”  If the answer was “yes”, I asked when a new patient could get an appointment.

I called 20 doctors’ offices and 16 of them are taking new Medicare patients. Several said a new patient could see the doctor within a week. One doctor was not seeing new patients until December.  While a survey of 20 doctors is not statistically significant, I was relieved to know that a person moving to Tucson can find a primary care physician without much hassle.

The actual hassle was getting phone numbers. I recently wrote about the Medicare Physician Compare website, so I figured I’d use it to get a list of primary care doctors. I got the list, but most of the phone numbers provided are wrong (!!!). The first number I called turned out to be a psychiatric hospital and not the doctor’s office.

The list of doctors provided by Medicare is almost useless.  Many of the doctors on the northwest side of Tucson have the number for Northwest Hospital – but they don’t work there, and the person who answers the phone can’t give you their number.  Jeeze.  It was quite frustrating for me.

Back to my phone survey:  Four of the doctors I reached are not taking new patients, but the reason is that they have too many patients. Nobody mentioned anything about not taking Medicare patients because Medicare pays too little.

Of course, I didn’t talk to doctors.  I talked to the person who makes the appointments, and I got a couple of odd statements. One person did not seem to understand the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Here is my conversation with the doctor’s scheduler.

Doctor’s scheduler: “What plan does the person have?”

Me: “This person has Original Medicare. She will use her Medicare card.”

Doctor’s scheduler: “Does she have A, B, or C?”

Me:  “Well, Medicare is A and B, so she has both. Plus she has a supplement.”

Scheduler: “What plan does she have?”

Me: “It doesn’t matter what supplement plan she has because she has Medicare as her primary.”

Scheduler: “Well, we take Medicare as long as she doesn’t have AHCCCS.”

Me: “Does the doctor take Medicare Advantage plans like Health Net, Humana, United?”

Scheduler:  “Yes, we take those.”

I have a feeling the doctor’s scheduler deals more with people who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.  “Original Medicare” did not seem to ring a bell for her. Now, I don’t blame her for being confused because there are so many Advantage plans and there are so many under-65 insurance plans that it must be overwhelming at times to keep track of what insurance they accept and what they don’t accept. But I would think “Medicare” would stand out. But I guess I’m wrong to assume that.

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