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Congressional Inaction Means Seniors, Military Face Health Care Threat April 1

21 percent cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients starts in days

For immediate release:
March 26, 2010

Statement attributable to:          
J. James Rohack, MD
President, American Medical Association

“Members of Congress eager to spend a two-week holiday with their families have left America's military families and seniors to fend for themselves through their inaction on a known threat to the Medicare and TRICARE programs. On April 1, a 21 percent Medicare cut to physicians begins.  Congress’ failure to act on permanent repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula has put access to health care for seniors and military families in jeopardy.  Physicians will be forced to limit the care they can provide to Medicare patients when payments fall steeply below the cost of providing care in a few days.  A new informal poll of physicians found that 68 percent will limit the number of Medicare patients they can treat when the cut takes place.

“One month ago when Congress delayed this year’s 21 percent cut to April 1, we urged them to use this time wisely to repeal the payment formula that projects these cuts.  It is unconscionable for elected officials to play politics with seniors and military families who rely on them to preserve their ability to see the physician of their choice.  Seniors, military families and their physicians need to let their members of Congress know that decisions made in Washington have real-world consequences, and that their inability to take permanent action on this critical issue is unacceptable.

“Physicians told Congress back when they created this payment system that it would not work, and for nearly a decade Congress has enacted short-term actions to stop increasingly steep annual cuts.  This year, Congress has dealt with the problem on a month-to-month basis, and now for the second month in a row they failed to act in time.  This is causing severe instability for seniors and physicians, causing problems for vulnerable patients who rely on Medicare and TRICARE.”

Patients can contact their members of Congress through the AMA's Patients' Action Network, and physicians can do so by calling (800) 833-6354.

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Contact:

Katherine Hatwell
AMA Media Relations
202-789-7419
Katherine.hatwell@ama-assn.org

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