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AMA and ACP Urge Congress to Halt Looming Medicare Cuts; Avert Medicare Access Problems for Seniors

AMA Makes ‘House Call’ to Pennsylvania Encouraging Seniors to Get Involved

PHILADELPHIA – (August 8, 2006) The American Medical Association (AMA) brought its National House Call campaign to Southeast Pennsylvania this week to draw attention to an imminent access to care problem for Pennsylvania’s nearly two million Medicare patients. If Congress does not act, payments to physicians are scheduled to be cut drastically, starting January 1, 2007, forcing physicians to make difficult decisions about limiting the number of new Medicare patients.

“Medicare payments are scheduled for cuts of 37 percent over the next nine years, while at the same time the government estimates that the cost of caring for patients will rise 22 percent,” said AMA President William G. Plested III, M.D. “Physicians want to serve America’s seniors. Unfortunately, drastic Medicare cuts will force physicians to make difficult practice changes. Pennsylvania’s disabled patients, its seniors and its retiring Baby Boomers all deserve better.”

“Nearly half (45 percent) of the physicians surveyed by the AMA say next year’s Medicare cut will force them to either decrease or stop seeing new Medicare patients,” said Dr. Plested. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg, with the vast majority of the cuts yet to come in the years following 2007. Congress needs to stop the physician payment cuts and provide payments based on the cost of providing care.”

“Rural Pennsylvania will be especially hard hit, as more than a third of physicians whose practice serves a rural patient population said they would have to discontinue rural outreach services,” Dr. Plested said.

The AMA, American College of Physicians (ACP) and Pennsylvania Medical Society (PMS) met with local media in Southeastern Pennsylvania to discuss the effects of the Medicare payment cuts in Pennsylvania. The three organizations are urging patients to contact Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to stop the Medicare physician payment cuts.

“The support of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is critical to stop the cuts and preserve seniors’ access to care,” said ACP Deputy Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John A Mitas II, MD, FACP.

“In Pennsylvania, Medicare reimbursements will be cut $131 million next year and $8.3 billion over the next nine years. That’s a huge loss of federal dollars which creates a major barrier to seniors’ access-to-care,” said PMS President Mark A. Piasio, MD, MBA.

“Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation with 16 percent of the state’s population enrolled in Medicare,” Dr. Piasio said. “In addition, TRICARE, which provides health insurance for military families and retirees, ties its physician payment rates to Medicare. So, the Medicare cuts could hurt access to care for Pennsylvania’s nearly 160,000 TRICARE beneficiaries.”

“The Senate just took an important step toward legislative action as 80 Senators, including Senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, recently sent a letter to the Senate leadership urging Congress to act soon to stop the cuts and reimburse physicians more in line with practice costs,” said Dr. Mitas.

“In the U.S. House, 13 Pennsylvania Representatives have pledged their support, and we thank them for their support. We applaud them for their efforts and urge all of Pennsylvania’s senators and representatives to stop the payment cuts before January 1,” said Dr. Plested.

“Pennsylvania’s health and economy could both suffer if these Medicare cuts go through,” said Dr. Plested. “Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that these Medicare physician payment cuts could have an impact on more than 130,000 employees in Pennsylvania, including nurses, technicians, administrators and other support staff.”

“Congress needs to take a good, hard look at the future of Medicare on its current course and take action. Congressional action now to avert this crisis can shore up Medicare’s foundation and put the program on solid footing for the future. America’s seniors deserve no less,” said Dr. Plested.

Contact: David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554, dkinsman@acponline.org

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