AMA: Congress must act now to prevent Medicare catastrophe

November 8, 2010
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November 8, 2010—American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, speaking today at a press conference during the AMA’s semiannual meeting in San Diego, said, “The same question is on every doctor’s lips: 'Will Congress act in time to block the impending Medicare cuts?'”

The AMA is urging Congress to block the cuts in Medicare payments to physicians immediately and then take 13 months to work out a long-term solution. “Congress members must act before Thanksgiving recess. It is the only way to preserve seniors’ access to healthcare and prevent Medicare meltdown,” Wilson emphasized. He called the proposed cuts "a catastrophe" for seniors who rely on Medicare. but he pointed out that the cuts would also adversely affect veterans, active military personnel, and their families because Tricare’s rates are tied to Medicare rates.

In a recent AMA poll, the results of which were released today, 94% of respondents aged 18 and older said they view the impending cuts as a serious problem; 98% of respondents in the over-55 age group see the problem as serious and think Congress must “act immediately.”

Another AMA poll, conducted earlier this year, revealed that 1 in 5 physicians are already limiting care to Medicare patients because of the threat of future cuts. Wilson said that physicians are being forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they care for and reduce the number of appointments for existing Medicare patients. Nevertheless, Wilson repeatedly emphasized that the potential catastrophe is about patients, not physicians, because patients' access to care is in jeopardy.

“Congress members need to stop playing politics and put the healthcare needs of American seniors first,” Wilson said. “If they will stop the cuts for at least 13 months, that will shore up physicians’ confidence in program.”

The AMA has launched an ad campaign to encourage citizens to call their Congress members and urge them to act before the Thanksgiving break. They ran a full-page ad in today’s edition of USA Today showing pictures of seniors, a veteran, and an active-duty military member with the caption: “They did it for us. Congress needs to do something for them.” The ad campaign will continue in Washington newspapers next week as Congress reconvenes.

For more information on the AMA's efforts to halt the cuts, visit www.ama-assn.org/go/stopthecut/.