Medicare Cuts To Physicians Will Harm Seniors

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Medicare Cuts

The American Medical Association (AMA) National House Call campaign visits Kansas City and urges residents to help press Congress to stop scheduled Medicare cuts that threaten patients' access to care. Unless Congress intervenes, Medicare will slash physician payments 15 percent over the next two years beginning on January 1, 2008.

A recent AMA survey found that 60 percent of physicians say they will be forced to limit the number of new Medicare patients they treat when the government cuts payment rates beginning next year.

"Payments to physicians aren't keeping pace with the costs of practicing medicine, and our concern is that, as shown in the government's own data, seniors are already finding it more difficult to find a new physician," said AMA Immediate Past President William G. Plested III, MD. "According to MedPAC, the government commission that advises Congress on Medicare issues, 24 percent of Medicare patients who are looking for a new primary care physician are having trouble finding one."

"Over the next two years Kansas' physicians will lose $140 million for the care of the state's nearly 380,000 Medicare patients and Missouri's physicians will lose $290 million for care of the state's 854,000 Medicare patients. If the cuts continue through 2016 as scheduled, Kansas will lose $2 billion in care for the elderly and disabled and Missouri will lose $4.6 billion. That's a cut of 40 percent in payments while the cost of patient care will rise 20 percent, according to the government's conservative estimates," said Dr. Plested.

"We're concerned that Congress is creating a crisis by allowing physician payment cuts at the same time that Medicare is about to see an unprecedented increase in enrollment. In 2010, the first wave of Baby Boomers start hitting the Medicare rolls, and we're concerned there won't be enough doctors able to care for all the new Medicare patients," Dr. Plested said.

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"If the cuts scheduled for the next two years are implemented, physician payments will be reduced to their 1991 levels," Dr. Plested said. "Most physicians' offices are small businesses. And no business can keep its doors open if it can't pay its bills."

The cuts also hit nearly 113,000 members of military families in Kansas and 148,000 in Missouri because rates in their health insurance system, called TRICARE, are tied to Medicare.

"For seniors, for military families, we need Congress to act to stop the Medicare physician payment cuts," said Dr. Plested.

"We urge the senators from Kansas and Missouri to reject the two years of cuts totaling 15 percent and make payments reflect the increasing costs of medical care in order to prevent more seniors from having problems finding a new primary care physician or specialist,"

Dr. Plested said.

"We need the Senate to act now. Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback have been supportive in the past, and we appreciate that support. But the Medicare patients in Kansas they represent need them to fix this problem now by working in the Senate for a solution that provides urgently needed relief," Dr. Plested said.

"The AMA encourages patients to get involved through the AMA's Patients Action Network. So far, more than a million have signed on. We're asking them to urge the Senate to take action to provide meaningful relief from drastic Medicare physician payment cuts," said Dr. Plested.

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