Senate Gridlock Hurts Seniors’ Health: Medicare Physician Payment Comes Down to the Wire Again

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 15, 2010.  Statement attributable to J. James Rohack, MD, President, Ameircan Medical Association.

“Medicare physician payment comes down to the wire today as the Senate scrambles once again to delay the 21 percent Medicare cut before physicians feel the impact in their payments this week and a Medicare meltdown begins. Congress’ failure to stave off the Medicare physician payment cut leaves physicians in limbo and puts seniors’ access to care and choice of physician in serious jeopardy. This continued uncertainty coupled with the fact that Medicare payments, even without the 21 percent cut, have not kept up with the cost of providing care to seniors demonstrates the need for a permanent solution to this annual problem.

“Congress’ inability to solve this problem once and for all through repeal of the broken payment formula will hurt seniors, military families and the physicians who care for them. It is impossible for physicians to continue to care for all seniors when Medicare payments fall so far below the cost of providing care. In an informal poll, 68 percent of physicians tell AMA they will be forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they can care for. Already, about one in four Medicare patients seeking a new primary care physician are experiencing difficulty finding one.

“Fixing the Medicare physician payment problem is essential to the stability of Medicare. If Congress fails to repeal the formula, the problem will continue to grow. Seven times in seven years Congress voted not to impose cuts triggered by the flawed payment formula, putting off paying for it until another day.

“Congress’ inability to solve this problem has not only made it impossible for physicians to keep seeing all Medicare patients, it has more than quadrupled the price of a solution for taxpayers.  It’s irresponsible to continue short-term fixes just as baby boomers begin aging into Medicare next year. Congress needs to make the better fiscal decision and the better decision for seniors and repeal the formula now instead of putting it off again and increasing the price tag for America’s taxpayers.”