Senate Failures To Address Medicare Physician Payment Cuts
The American Academy of Family Physicians is dismayed and deeply disappointed that the U.S. Senate has failed in its responsibility to enact legislation to prevent a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare physician payment that took effect on July 1.
The impact of this failure goes beyond the medical community; it threatens Medicare beneficiaries’ access to health care because it further drives family physicians toward financial insolvency. Access problems for these patients are emerging. In its 2007 presentation to Congress, MedPAC reported that 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were having trouble finding a new primary care physician. In March, the Medical Group Management Association reported that nearly 24 percent of physicians in all specialties had begun limiting or not accepting new Medicare patients; 46 percent would limit or stop accepting new Medicare patients with implementation of the 10.6 percent pay cut.
Family physicians have worked tirelessly on behalf of Medicare patients. Despite those efforts, family physicians have struggled with 20 percent inflation in costs for office space, equipment, supplies, health and administrative staff, medical liability insurance and other costs of business since 2001. During that time, their Medicare compensation for their services has stagnated. No small business – as most family physician practices are – can sustain that kind of loss and remain open to care for people.
It is unconscionable that our elected officials – who were sent to Washington to represent the needs of the American public – cannot act to ensure access to care for millions of their elderly and disabled constituents.
The Senate must get back to work and find a solution that will allow family physicians to serve their Medicare patients. Of all their constituents, elderly and disabled Americans are least able to cope with the instability that Congressional inaction forces on their access to health care.