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New AMA Ad Urges Congress to Fix the Medicare Physician Payment Formula

June 1 Deadline for Congressional Action

For immediate release:
May 10, 2010

Washington, D.C. – As the June 1 deadline for action on Medicare physician payment nears, the American Medical Association (AMA) unveiled a new print ad today aimed directly at lawmakers. Scheduled for publication in three Capitol Hill publications today through the end of May, the ad emphasizes that more delays of permanent reform now increase the cost for taxpayers and calls on Congress to fix the flawed Medicare physician payment formula now.

"Short-term patches of any length create instability in the Medicare system for seniors and their physicians and hurt health care access for patients," said AMA President J. James Rohack, M.D. "We urge Congress to seize this opportunity to fix the flawed payment formula before the June 1 deadline when this year’s 21 percent cut begins."

The Medicare cut to physicians, which is caused by a flawed payment formula, has been delayed by Congress three times this year – and seven other times over the last seven years. Repeated short-term fixes have caused the price of reform to more than quadruple – from $49 billion in 2003 to the current projection of $210 billion. Today’s new AMA ad pictures a child’s growth chart starting with today’s price tag and spiraling up to $396 billion in three years and $513 billion in five years if the problem is not addressed now.

"It’s critical that Congress replace the flawed formula with one that better reflects the costs of providing 21st century medical care," said Dr. Rohack. "It took until 2009 for Medicare physician payment rates to catch up to where they were in 2001, while the cost of caring for seniors has increased by more than 20 percent. Physicians cannot continue caring for all Medicare patients if Congress continues to enact temporary patches that freeze payments at 2001 rates."

An informal poll of physicians found that 68 percent would limit the Medicare patients they care for if this year’s cut occurs. Physicians nationwide are sharing their frustration with lawmakers, and both AARP and the Military Officers Association of America share AMA’s concern about access to care for seniors and military families and have called on Congress to fix the broken payment formula.  

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Media contact:
Katherine Hatwell
American Medical Association
202-789-7419
Katherine.Hatwell@ama-assn.org

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