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AMA: Inaction from Congress Inexcusable, Leaves Medicare Patients and Physicians Who Care for Them at Risk

For immediate release:
Dec. 19, 2012

Statement attributable to:
Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD
President, American Medical Association

“Only 12 days before their January 1 deadline, Congress continues to play a game of ‘political chicken’ with Medicare payments. Congress’ inaction will lead to a massive 26.5 percent cut for physicians, in communities across the nation, who care for more than 47 million Medicare patients. The AMA sent a letter to Congress today calling for immediate action to stop these crippling cuts and stabilize Medicare for patients and physicians.

“The threat is real and a cut of 26.5 percent is simply unsustainable. The administration has announced it will not delay processing of Medicare claims, so physicians who care for Medicare patients will see an immediate, drastic cut of 26.5 percent on all Medicare payments for services starting January 1. With no sign of action from Congress, physicians must prepare themselves and their patients for an impending Medicare crisis. With a full year to stop this drastic cut, it is absolutely inexcusable that Congress has failed to act, leaving Medicare patients and physicians to deal with the consequences.

“Payments to physicians who care for Medicare patients have been nearly frozen for a decade, while the cost of caring for patients has increased by more than 20 percent. Last year one third of Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician had trouble finding one, according to a MedPAC study. Access to care for patients in Medicare will be drastically compromised if this cut takes effect.

“Patients who rely on Medicare, and the physicians who provide them with vital care and treatment, must contact Congress to tell them to act immediately to stop this looming crisis. The AMA has resources to help patients and physicians make these contacts available at www.ama-assn.org/go/grassroots or by calling (800) 833-6354.

“The ongoing stalemate in Washington makes the Medicare program unreliable, and this instability undermines efforts by physicians to implement new health care delivery models that can improve value for patients through better care coordination. Physicians want to work with Congress to move past this ongoing crisis to strengthen Medicare for current and future seniors. It is time to stop this broken cycle and move toward a Medicare program that ensures continued access and the best health outcomes for patients and a stable, rewarding practice environment for physicians.”

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Contact:

Heather Lasher Todd
AMA Media Relations
202-789-7430
Heather.Lasher.Todd@ama-assn.org

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