Senate Must Act This Week to Avoid Medicare Meltdown

Friday, June 27, 2008 General News
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AMA Calls on Senate to Approve Bill That Passed the House by a Veto-Proof, Bipartisan Majority to Help Ensure Seniors' Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON, June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement is attributable to Nancy H. Nielsen, M.D., President, American Medical Association:

"Today, we stand at the brink of a Medicare meltdown. On July 1 - just five days from now - the government will slash Medicare physician payments by 10.6 percent.

"This cut would force 60 percent of doctors to limit the number of new Medicare patients they treat. More than half of doctors say they'd need to cut staff, and 14 percent say they'd quit patient care altogether.

"If physicians can't pay our bills, we have to make tough decisions that we don't like to make - let alone talk about. We need the Senate to do more than talk about it -- right now. We're asking Congress to stop the cuts and support Medicare payments to physicians that at least start to cover the cost of practicing medicine.

"The way to do this is within our reach - bipartisan legislation now before the Senate. It would stop the cuts of more than 15 percent over the next 18 months. And it would add a modest 1.1 percent increase in Medicare payments for 2009 that will help physicians meet their costs.

"It's not perfect. For one thing, it still leaves intact a flawed, dysfunctional payment system -- a system that burdens only physicians, yet annually gives payment increases to the health insurance industry, nursing homes and hospitals. But this bill does avert a disaster and buys time for Washington and the medical community to work on a long-term solution to the flawed Medicare physician payment formula.

"The House made this critical issue a top priority. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives acted decisively to pass this legislation - H.R. 6331 - by an overwhelming, veto-proof, bipartisan margin of 355 to 59.

"Now, it's the Senate's turn to consider this same legislation. We urge the Senate to act today - before their Fourth of July recess -- to stop these cuts and allow Medicare to keep its promise to America's seniors.

"We can't put patients into limbo - where their physicians are forced to make no-win decisions just to keep their office doors open. Medicare patients deserve better from Washington! And frankly, so do those who care for Medicare patients.

"We've made a diagnosis. The treatment is clear. The House has prepped the patient. Now the Senate needs to administer the cure.

"Access to Medicare for our patients - among them some of the most vulnerable of our family, friends and neighbors - hangs in the balance. There's a lot at stake, and today the physicians of America call on the Senate to do the right thing for the Greatest Generation."

SOURCE American Medical Association

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