Medicare & Medicaid

How to find and talk with your reps on need to fix Medicare

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

AMA News Wire

How to find and talk with your reps on need to fix Medicare

Aug 7, 2023

What’s the news: As part of its effort to persuade Washington lawmakers to overhaul the unsustainable Medicare physician payment system, the AMA is offering tools and advice to help doctors connect with members of Congress during the pivotal August recess.

“While they use the term ‘recess,’ this is anything but for lawmakers,” David Lusk told physicians during an AMA webinar (registration required).

The AMA is advocating for you

The AMA has achieved recent wins in 5 critical areas for physicians.

“This is a time for them to go back to the district and meet with constituents and hear what’s happening back home. This is an opportunity for us to reach out to lawmakers, to engage with lawmakers,” said Lusk, who founded Key Advocacy and has more than two decades’ experience in policy and government affairs.

Such meetings with members of Congress are “just as important as anything that the AMA staff might do,” Lusk said. 

The AMA has developed a toolkit to help physician advocates make the most of the August recess (PDF), with advice and tips on how to:

  • Research district locations of congressional offices.
  • Request meetings and site visits with members of Congress.
  • Conduct informal interactions throughout the district.
  • Create meaningful in-district engagements.
  • Briefly discuss the need for Medicare physician payment reform.

The AMA toolkit also outlines do’s and don’ts for physician advocacy. Simply figuring out how to request a meeting can be tricky, Lusk noted.

“While we have one Congress, we have a House and Senate—and essentially 535 small businesses,” he said. Looking at the websites of the three people who represent you in Congress, you likely will find three different ways to contact or request a meeting or site visit.

Meanwhile, events web pages are often outdated. Signing up for your representatives’ email lists, following them on social media and keeping a close eye on local media for news about upcoming town-hall meetings or other appearances are essential steps, Lusk said.

Related Coverage

Congress must act now on Medicare physician payment reform

“The opportunities are out there if you look,” he said. “You just may have to be a little creative.”

Lusk added that survey research has found that “in-district advocacy is as effective as advocacy on Capitol Hill—it’s not where you do it; it’s what you’re doing.”

Learn about how you can take part in the fight to fix Medicare on behalf of your patients and practices at the AMA's Fix Medicare Now website.

Leading the charge to reform Medicare pay is the first pillar of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

The AMA has challenged Congress to work on systemic reforms and make Medicare work better for you and your patients. Our work will continue, fighting tirelessly against future cuts—and against all barriers to patient care.

Why it’s important: After accounting for inflation in practice costs, Medicare physician payment declined (PDF) 26% from 2001 to 2023. Most recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a 2024 Medicare physician pay schedule that would result in a 3.36% cut in payment for doctors.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to tie the Medicare physician payment schedule to the Medicare Economic Index, a move that is essential to protecting access to high-quality care for the 65 million older adult Americans covered by Medicare.

Members save on loans & financial services

AMA members get low-rate student loan refinancing from Laurel Road, and a full suite of coverage through AMA Insurance.

“We have a Congress that has had difficulty passing legislation that goes far to the left or far to the right,” Lusk said. “At some point, Congress is going to want to see that they get something through, and this is a great opportunity to engage with lawmakers—to stay engaged—because what it’s really going to come down to during August is that old adage of the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and who wants to speak up the loudest, politely and persistently, with their lawmakers are the ones who will get the attention of lawmakers.”

Moreover, with the general public seeing their own earnings undermined by inflation, “this is the time that everyone understands ... inflationary impacts” and can relate to the lack of inflation-adjusted payment for physicians in Medicare, he said. “This is the best time for you to make your case and to try and fix a problem that has been existing for some time.”

Learn more: The AMA has declared Medicare physician payment reform to be an urgent advocacy and legislative priority.

Last week, a bipartisan group of 101 House members signed a letter (PDF) to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calling for urgent action to address problems in the health system that have been exacerbated by a pandemic and physician burnout. The letter points out the problematic Medicare payment system that fails patients because physician practices are struggling to keep their doors open amid spiking inflation and rising costs.

Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to find out what’s at stake in reforming Medicare payment and other advocacy priorities the AMA is actively working on.