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A Perfect Storm Threatens Patient Access to Specialty Medical Care
Date:6/17/2008

- Unless Congress acts before the end of the month, declining reimbursement rates may force physicians to discontinue specialty services, leaving

patients with limited access to care when they need it most -

WARSAW, Ind., June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- As baby boomers approach retirement age, a confluence of forces may threaten access to the specialty care they need to treat their bone and joint disorders.

A near-epidemic level of bone and joint disorders is rapidly approaching, according to One Patient, an advocacy initiative recently launched by Biomet, Inc. a manufacturer of medical devices in Warsaw, Ind. At the same time, experts predict a shortage of physicians in general, and bone and joint specialists in particular. This shortage is likely to be worsened by declining reimbursement, which discourages physicians from focusing on specialty treatment such as joint replacement surgery for bone and joint disease.

Among the most common joint diseases, arthritis affects approximately 47 million Americans, including 50 percent of Americans over age 65. That figure is expected to grow to 67 million by 2030, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Worse, arthritis and other bone and joint diseases are among the most expensive medical disorders: loss of earnings from disability resulting from them totaled $339 billion in 2004.

Now, as the need for specialty treatment mounts, at least three independent sources project physician shortages in the United States of between 55,000 and 200,000 by 2020. In particular, the supply of orthopaedic surgeons, specialists in treating bone and joint disorders, has grown at an average yearly rate of only 1.1 percent per 100,000 citizens for the last 10 years. To meet projected demand, the supply of orthopaedic surgeons must grow 23- 54 percent by 2020, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

"Patients who need total joint replacements and the surgeons who
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SOURCE Biomet, Inc.
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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