Congress Urged To Stop Medicare Cuts
American Medical Association (AMA) National House Call campaign visits New Mexico today and urges residents to help press Congress to stop scheduled Medicare cuts.
Unless Congress intervenes, Medicare will slash physician payments 15 percent over the next two years.
"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 are having trouble finding a new primary care physician."
"This has the potential to get much worse. On January 1, 2008, Medicare payments will be cut by an unprecedented 10 percent. This cut, plus five percent cut in 2009, means New Mexico's physicians will lose $60 million for the care of the state's 245,000 Medicare patients. If these cuts continue through 2016 as scheduled, New Mexico will lose $930 million in care for the elderly and disabled. 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 inadvertently 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 roles," Dr. Plested said.
"If the cuts scheduled for the next two years are implemented, physician payments will be reduced to their 1991 levels," Dr. Plested said. "I ask you, what choices would you be forced to make if you started getting paid what you were paid in 1991? 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 more than 86 thousand members of military families in New Mexico because rates in their health insurance system, called TRICARE, are tied to Medicare.
"For seniors, for military families, for everyone in the state, we need Congress to act to stop the Medicare physician payment cuts," said Dr. Plested.
"We urge New Mexico's senators and representatives to reject the pending 2008 Medicare cut 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. New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman have been supportive in the past, and we appreciate that support. But New Mexico's patients need them to fix this problem now by working in the Senate for a solution that provides needed relief and doesn't make the problem worse," Dr. Plested said.
"That's why we're also getting our patients 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.