Washington Physicians Launch Medicare Meltdown Petition Drive

Friday, April 9, 2010 Press Release
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SEATTLE, April 8 Medicare is breaking down and needs lasting repair, Washington physicians have told the state's Congressional Delegation. Now the state's physicians are launching a petition drive with their patients to help prevent a Medicare Meltdown.

The petition urges Congress to fix the flawed payment formula that threatens care for Washington's 897,000 Medicare recipients, including senior citizens and people with disabilities, and 337,000 military family members covered by TRICARE.

"The final blow to access to care resulted from Congress adjourning for its Spring recess without taking action to stop a 21.2% cut in Medicare payments for physicians' services. Current payment levels don't cover the cost of many services now," stated Dr. Deborah J. Harper, President of the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA). The WSMA represents over 9,600 physicians and surgeons across the state.

"For a Medicare patient, a doctor can mean everything: independence, hope, and security," said Dr. Harper. "But Medicare patients are feeling anything but secure about the future of their health care. Every year for a decade, physicians and other practitioners have faced steep Medicare cuts that jeopardize our ability to care for our patients."

Each year Congress slaps a temporary Band-Aid on the problem, postponing a steep cut to a later date. The most recent cut went into effect on April Fools' Day, and Congress is expected to place another temporary patch on the problem when it reconvenes next week. It would be the third patch this year alone. "This ongoing uncertainty hurts patients and their doctors. Patients need to know their doctor will be there when they need them," added Dr. Harper.

As of today, over 40 state medical associations have joined in the petition drive.

"Our seniors, patients with disabilities, and military families deserve better than the on-again/off-again health plan Medicare has become," said Dr. Harper. "The only acceptable solution is for Congress to repeal the flawed Medicare formula and replace it with a stable, fair funding mechanism that reflects the true cost of providing care."

Physicians report their Medicare patients routinely ask them if they know of other physicians -

both specialists and primary care - who will see and care for them. Finding doctors to care for new Medicare patients is a constant struggle, they say.

Physicians will be inviting their patients to join the grassroots effort to save Medicare by signing the online petition. A link to the easy-to-complete online petition is at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/meltdown/.

For more information about how the 21.2% cut will affect Medicare patients in our state, go to www.wsma.org.

SOURCE Washington State Medical Association

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