AMA Calls for Action on Medicare Pay

Nancy Nielsen, MD
AMA President-elect

“The AMA is deeply disappointed that congressional leaders have decided to defer action to stop Medicare cuts to physicians. Congress has two important access to health care priorities that must be addressed this year – renewing health care coverage for kids and preserving seniors’ access to care.

“Expanding health care coverage to all Americans is a top priority of the AMA, and covering kids is an important step toward that goal. We are encouraged that Congress will do the right thing and finalize legislation to renew the health care program for children before it expires at the end of this month. Time is of the essence as the clock winds down on SCHIP, and the clock is also ticking for action to stop Medicare cuts to physicians that begin Jan. 1.

“It’s now up to the Senate to ensure that seniors’ access to health care is not at risk next year because of unfortunate, mandated payment cuts to physicians. Over the next two years, the government will slash payments to physicians caring for seniors 15 percent. Doctors want to continue caring for Medicare patients, but many are between a rock and a hard place as they work to keep their practice doors open to all patients while the government plans to cut payments. A majority of physicians, 60 percent, say that next year’s steep payment cut will force them to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat.

“Over the next nine years, the government will cut Medicare payments to physicians about 40 percent, while medical practice costs are expected to increase 20 percent. The AMA is deeply concerned that these cuts will make it harder for Medicare patients to continue to receive regular medical care. In just three short years, the baby boomers will begin aging into Medicare, and we are concerned physicians will be forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they care for just as millions of older Americans will need access to medical care. We are joined by the nation’s largest organization for people 50-plus, AARP, in our concern that Medicare patients could lose access to physicians, and a new round of joint print ads will be published in inside-the-beltway publications beginning this Wednesday.

“To avert this access crisis for seniors, the Senate must act to stop the next two years of Medicare cuts to doctors and provide fully funded payment increases that help cover the increasing costs of caring for seniors, and set the stage for a long-term solution to the problem.”
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