Looming Medicare physician payment cuts are once again threatening our patients and our medical practices. A massive cut is scheduled to take effect on December 1, followed by an additional cut on January 1. This combined cut of about 25 percent compromises access to care for seniors and forces physicians to make difficult decisions about the continuing role Medicare can play in their practices.
The decision to limit or stop accepting Medicare patients is often gut wrenching for physicians, but it is one we are increasingly forced to make as Congress’ mismanagement of Medicare continues. An AMA poll found that about 1 in 5 physicians overall, and nearly one third of primary care physicians, are already restricting the number of Medicare patients in their practice because of low reimbursement rates and the threat of future cuts. Others are taking a hard look at making changes during the current window for modifying participation status within the Medicare system. The AMA has resources on our web site to help you weigh this difficult decision before the December 31st deadline.
My sincere hope is that by working together we can move Congress to prevent the impending 25 percent cut for 13 months through the end of 2011. This reprieve would allow time for the AMA to work with the new Congress on a permanent fix to the impossibly broken physician payment system that has plagued Medicare for too long.
For this to happen, we must all work together to communicate our united message. The first step was a joint letter to Congress from the AMA, medical societies representing 50 states and the District of Columbia, and 65 specialty societies about the need for immediate action to stop the drastic Medicare payment cuts and protect seniors’ access to health care. To continue this momentum we need your help.
Please contact your elected officials in Washington, D.C. and let them know that you support an immediate 13-month stop to the Medicare physician payment cuts, as well as permanent reform going forward. We urge you to call your members of Congress this month to encourage them to act. Your support is especially necessary on November 17th, when physicians across the country will join together in calling their members of Congress to urge them to stop the cut. On this “White Coat Wednesday”, physicians will speak with one loud voice about the need for Congressional action now – before the 25 percent cut takes effect at the end of this year. You can contact your elected officials by using the Physicians Grassroots Network hotline at (800) 833-6354.
We must also make sure our patients know the affect these cuts will have on their access to health care. Their voices on this matter are critically important and can be amplified through the AMA’s Patient Action Network. The AMA has developed a flyer you can distribute and/or hang in your office to educate patients about this issue. With the first wave of baby boomers entering Medicare in January, this broken Medicare payment system now threatens care for a whole new generation of American seniors if Congress does not act.
Thank you for doing your part to bring reform of the Medicare physician payment system to the forefront. The AMA will continue our vigorous work with Congress on policy that helps you successfully care for Medicare patients.