For seniors, health care hard to come by in Idaho

Author: Anusha Roy, KXLY4 Reporter, anushar@kxly.com
Published On: Aug 29 2012 06:55:39 PM PDT   Updated On: Aug 30 2012 02:47:36 PM PDT
North Idaho senior citizens
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -

While Idaho has plans to bring more doctors to the Gem State and perhaps even build a medical school, plans years from execution aren't helping senior citizens who need medical care now.

At the Post Falls senior center people can get a bite to eat with a community that really understands them.

"When you get sick you need to know you can go someplace," senior Eva Sherrill said.

Every day someone calls the center about their struggle to get the medical care they need.

"One lady called, it's been six months since she could get into a doctor because of the waiting list and everything," Alison McArthur with the Post Falls senior center said.

Forget making an appointment and wait times, some seniors are struggling just to get in the door and find a doctor that accepts people on Medicare.

"What we are hearing is because they are Medicare recipient or Medicaid recipient, they already had their quota of patients, not able to take on new patients," McArthur said.

So seniors get hit twice in Idaho. Not only is there a shortage of doctors but some are limiting the number of Medicare patients they see.

"We've had some people go six months, nine months without being to find someone to accept Medicare," Dr. Joseph Abate with Dirne Community Health Center said.

The Idaho Medical Association reports that for the last decade, Medicare reimbursement rates have been slashed. A short term solution that provides relief will run out by January and doctors could face a 30 percent cut.

It's forced some physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients just to survive.

But at Dirne Community Health it's different.

"We welcome Medicare patients because every insured patient that walks into the door allows a slot for another uninsured patients," Dr. Abate said.

It's where Eva Sherrill has been going for six years.

"They can help you get in the same day, if you call that morning about 8," she said.

Among so much uncertainty, Dirne Community Health is one place seniors can count on to see a doctor when they need to.