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AMA to Akron Beacon Journal: Temporary patches, mounting harm

Dec. 4, 2011(published)

Akron Beacon Journal
Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

As the Nov. 29 editorial “Medicare challenges” points out, the looming 27 percent cut to Medicare physician payments scheduled to occur on Jan. 1 will have devastating repercussions for physicians and their patients in Medicare and TRICARE, the military health-care program. What is not noted is the adverse effect it has already had on taxpayers’ wallets.

On 12 separate occasions, Congress has put in place temporary patches to prevent the cuts triggered by this faulty formula. This failed policy of short-term patches spends more taxpayer money to preserve a system everyone agrees is broken. Congress’ short-term patches have already increased the overall cost to taxpayers for permanent repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula from $48 billion in 2005 to nearly $300 billion this year.

Congress’ first responsibility must be to stop this massive cut and protect access to care for seniors and military families. Going forward, Congress must also work to find a permanent solution to this ongoing problem and repeal the Medicare physician payment formula once and for all.

Peter W. Carmel, MD
President, American Medical Association