Elderly Americans face rationed health care of reduced quality if plans to cut federal Medicare fund reimbursements to physicians are approved, a Cincinnati physician says.

Dr. Stanley Lucas, a radiologist at Jewish Hospital and Ohio delegate to the American Medical Association, said President Bush's goal to cut $8 million in reimbursement to doctors in 1990 is poor policy. The proposal is part of an overall $5 billion reduction in Medicare expenditures."There are 31 million elderly people in the Medicare program and 3 million disabled, and the numbers increase by 10 percent every year. It isn't wise to decrease spending on a program that is being used by a growing number of people," Lucas said.

Doctors might be discouraged from participating in the program if they earn less because doctor fees are not to blame for skyrocketing Medicare costs, said Lucas.

"There have always been caps or limits on what doctors make for treating Medicare patients. The deficit in the program is not related to what doctors charge but to the advances in medical technology and the Cadillac care program demanded for every patient. If society wants this, it will have to pay for it," he said.

Congress now is studying "relative value systems," which would restructure doctors fees. One proposal under consideration would pay more for consultation and analysis and less for surgery and high-tech medical procedures.

Rep. Willis Gradison, R-Ohio, ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, said a fee freeze is likely for doctors in specialties considered overpriced.

But Gradison doesn't think tightening Medicare's purse strings will scare doctors away from treating patients in the program.