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AARP, AMA Urge Congress to Strengthen Medicare and Preserve Access to Choice of Physician

For immediate release
Oct. 16, 2009

WASHINGTON— Today, AARP and the American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter to the Senate, urging Senators to pass S. 1776, the Medicare Physician Fairness Act, which lays the foundation for a new payment system to help ensure seniors' access to and choice of physicians. If left unchecked, physicians face an unprecedented 21.5 percent cut in Medicare payment rates in 2010, with additional cuts in future years. These cuts will hurt older Americans who rely on Medicare and baby boomers who soon will. 

Uncertainty about whether Congress will prevent the cuts has contributed to the decision of some physicians to stop taking Medicare patients, making finding a doctor increasingly difficult for millions of seniors in Medicare.

The letter points to joint polling conducted by the AMA and AARP, which found that “two-thirds of people over 50 years old are either very or somewhat concerned that the current health care system limits their ability to see the doctor of their choice.” It continues, saying “The continuing threat of steep Medicare payment cuts jeopardizes seniors’ access to care and physicians’ confidence in the government’s commitment to funding a strong and reliable Medicare program.”  With the first wave of baby boomers reaching Medicare age in just two years, the time to act is now.

The letter also notes that Congress has passed legislation to override the flawed formula seven times in the last seven years, saying that “the past practice of ‘temporary band-aids’ … has only served to increase both the size of future cuts and the cost of subsequent interventions.”  The Medicare Physician Fairness Act would permanently replace the current flawed formula with a payment system that ensures doctors are paid fairly so they’ll not only continue to treat existing Medicare patients, but also accept new patients.

In closing, the letter urges the Senate, on behalf of older Americans and the physicians who care for them, to pass this important legislation.

Read the letter.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole.  AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates.  We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org.  AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors.  We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. Working together, the AMA's quarter of a million physician and medical student members are playing an active role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit www.ama-assn.org.

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