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AMA Releases 22 New "Patient Access Hot Spots" Nationwide – Medicare Cuts to Physicians Will Make Problem Worse

Permanent repeal of Medicare physician payment formula essential

For immediate release:
Oct. 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Highlighting the impact of looming Medicare cuts on seniors' access and choice of physician, the American Medical Association (AMA) released today a new analysis of states where access to care for Medicare patients is already at risk.  Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia made the American Medical Association's new "Patient Access Hot Spots" list, which is based on their ranking in the top 15 of at least two of five objective measures of access problems.

"This new analysis shows that seniors' access and choice of physician is already threatened, and bolsters the case for permanent repeal of the flawed payment formula that projects the Medicare cuts," said AMA President-elect Cecil Wilson, M.D.  "The Senate is considering legislation this week that lays the foundation to permanent repeal, and we urge Senators to pass the bill to preserve the security and stability of Medicare."

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), a longtime champion for patients and their physicians, introduced S. 1776, the "Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009."  The bill creates a pathway to permanent reform this year, and the AMA has activated its grassroots network of patients and physicians nationwide to call for bill passage.

Today's new finding affirms independent research from Congress' Medicare advisory committee (MedPAC) that found that 28 percent of Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician had some problem finding one, as well as anecdotal reports from patients and physicians. The AMA analyzed state-level data on five measures of access and identified the top 15 states on each measure. The 22 hot spots are based on their ranking in the top 15 of at least two of five objective measures of access problems:

  • Practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries
  • Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and over living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level
  • Estimated underserved population living in primary care health professional shortage areas
  • Hospital emergency room visits per 1,000 population
  • Percentage reporting not seeing a doctor in the past 12 months because of cost

 "Without repeal, physicians face Medicare cuts of about 40 percent over the next five years," said Dr. Wilson.  "In two years, the baby boomers will begin to reach Medicare age, and they will expect access to high-quality medical care to stay healthy and active as they age.  Physicians want to provide this care, but they need to know that Medicare will cover the cost of providing 21st century medical care."

"The time for band-aid fixes that preserve access in the short-term but grow the size of future cuts is past," said Dr. Wilson.  "The U.S. Senate can help ensure that physicians can care for Medicare patients now and into the future through permanent repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula." 

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Note to State Reporters:

Quotes by AMA President-elect Cecil Wilson, M.D. specific to each Patient Access Hot Spot provided for your use. For more information on each state on the hot spot list visit the AMA website.

Alabama

"Alabama has just 13 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients and steep Medicare cuts to physicians will further hurt seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.  "There are 487 emergency visits per 1,000 population and 19 percent of the state's residents live in a health professional shortage area."

Arkansas

"With just 12 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, Arkansas has one of the lowest  physician-to-patient ratios in the country and steep Medicare cuts to physicians will further hurt seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.  "More than 30 percent of seniors in Arkansas are living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level."

District of Columbia

"As lawmakers work in the nation's capitol to strengthen the security and stability of Medicare, it's important to note that one quarter of Washington, DC residents live in a health professional shortage area, and there are 784 emergency visits per 1,000 population," said Dr. Wilson.  "Thirty-five percent of seniors in the District live below 150 percent of the federal poverty level."

Florida

"With nearly three million Medicare patients and only 15 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, it's vital that Congress ensure seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.  "Fifteen percent of the state's residents live in a health professional shortage area."

Georgia

"Steep Medicare cuts to physicians will hurt Georgia seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.  "Nearly a third of Georgia seniors on Medicare are living under 150 percent of the federal poverty level and 16 percent of Georgia residents report not seeing a doctor in the past 12 months due to cost."

Idaho

"Much of Idaho is underserved by physicians with 17 percent of the state in a health professional shortage area and just 14 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients – steep Medicare cuts will make the problem worse," said Dr. Wilson. 

Indiana

"With a ratio of 15 physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, Indiana seniors will be hurt by Medicare cuts to physicians," said Dr. Wilson.

Kentucky

"Kentucky has just 14 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients and one third of the state's seniors live below 150 percent of the federal poverty level – Medicare cuts to doctors will make the problem worse," said Dr. Wilson. 

Louisiana

"About 34 percent of Louisiana residents live in health professional shortage areas and 36 percent of the state's seniors are living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level – Medicare cuts to doctors will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson. 

Massachusetts

"Twenty-nine percent of Massachusetts seniors on Medicare are living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and we're concerned that cuts will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.

Mississippi

"Mississippi ranks near the bottom by every measure of Medicare physician access, and cuts to physicians will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.  "Mississippi has just 12 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients and a third of the state's residents live in primary care shortage areas."

Montana

"Nearly a quarter of Montana residents live in a health professional shortage area, and there are just 15 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients in the state - and cuts to physicians will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson

New Mexico

"The AMA is concerned that Medicare cuts will further erode New Mexico seniors' access and choice of physician as 32 percent of New Mexico residents live in a primary care shortage area and 31 percent of seniors in the state are living below 150 percent of the poverty level," said Dr. Wilson.

North Carolina

"Thirty-one percent of North Carolina seniors on Medicare are living under 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and we're concerned that drastic cuts to physicians will further erode seniors' access to care," said Dr. Wilson.

North Dakota

"North Dakota has just 15 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients and 22 percent of the state's residents are estimated underserved living in health professional shortage areas – Medicare cuts to physicians will make the problem worse for seniors," said Dr. Wilson.

Oklahoma

"Oklahoma has just 14 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, and 15 percent of Oklahoma residents live in health professional shortage areas – Medicare cuts will surely make the problem worse for seniors," said Dr. Wilson.

South Carolina

"With 15 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients and a third of South Carolina's seniors living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, the AMA is concerned that Medicare cuts will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.

South Dakota

"With just 14 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, many areas of South Dakota are underserved and 27 percent of the state's residents live in health professional shortage areas – the AMA is concerned that Medicare cuts will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.

Tennessee

"Tennessee seniors are among the poorest in the nation, with 35 percent living below 150 percent of poverty, and Medicare cuts to physicians caring for seniors will hurt access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.

Texas

"One third of Texas seniors on Medicare are living below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and Medicare cuts to physicians caring for seniors will hurt access and choice of physician," said Dr. Wilson.

West Virginia

"With nearly one in five residents on Medicare, West Virginia has the highest proportion of the state's population on Medicare of any state," said Dr. Wilson.  "We are very concerned that Medicare cuts will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician as there are already only 13 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients."

Wyoming

"Medicare cuts to physicians will further erode seniors' access and choice of physician in Wyoming as one in five residents live in health professional shortage areas and there are just 14 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare patients, far below the national average," said Dr. Wilson.

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 Contact:

Katherine Hatwell
AMA Media Relations
202-789-7419

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