Doctors urge Congress to halt Medicare pay cuts

By Reuters
Posted Nov. 8, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.

The American Medical Association unleashed its latest salvo Monday in its campaign against cuts in Medicare payments to doctors with a survey that finds overwhelming concern among Americans.

The physician’s group did an online survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older and found 94 percent of them said they are concerned about the cuts to doctors who treat elderly patients.

The group released the findings at a meeting in San Diego to kick off a new advertising and lobbying push to convince lawmakers to block payment cuts — set to take effect Dec. 1 — before they recess for the Thanksgiving holiday later this month.

“Congress must stop the cuts before seniors’ healthcare is put in jeopardy,” AMA President Dr. Cecil Wilson told reporters on a telephone briefing.

Wilson warned of a “catastrophe” if Congress does not act to block the payment cuts. He said many doctors will be forced to see fewer patients covered by the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

The survey also found that 81 percent of adults agreed that Congress should act immediately to stop the Medicare physician payment cut, including 91 percent of people 55 or older, and 96 percent of people 65 or older

The poll was conducted from Oct. 22 to 26 by Synovate eNation and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. AMA did not disclose the number of people over age 65 who were surveyed.

In June, the group launched a similar campaign after Congress went on a week-long Memorial Day holiday before acting on a bill that would have postponed a pay cut that took effect on June 1.

Congress passed a six-month fix to the problem in late June. Wilson said many doctors at the time had to cut back on the number of Medicare patients they could see.

The doctors’ group wants a 13-month freeze on cuts until the system can be fixed.

The AMA has has been lobbying for a permanent change in the payment formula that it says is outdated and will allow steep cuts in Medicare payments if it had not been for repeated action by Congress to delay them.

Lawmakers for years have avoided a more permanent fix, which would cost about $250 billion over a decade, because of its impact on the long-term budget outlook.

The AMA represents about 23 percent of the nearly 1.1 million physicians and medical students in the United States.

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  1. Wayne Nov. 8, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Aren’t these cuts a key part of keeping the Healthcare reform bill “deficit neutral?” If so, then if Obama signs onto this, he violates yet another promise to the American people, but if he fights it, he puts a big hole in his re-election chances.

  2. Melissa Nov. 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    This just in – 100% of people concerned that they themselves might lose social entitlements are against cuts to social entitlements. Everyone wants to see the budget balanced, so long as you take the money from someone else.

  3. Harvey Wallbanger Nov. 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Right on, Melissa. This is one of the things that will make the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives so interesting. Spending bills can only originate in the House thus the Republicans are holding the bag on what happens. If the Democrats just enact a patch to carry the problem over to the new session of Congress (which is what will probably happen), Republicans will have to either OK a spending increase for Medicare or take the consequences of reducing payouts to doctors. The teabaggers over age 65 have a dilemma, don’t they?

  4. Rance St. Ambrose, IV Nov. 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    When this mess finally gets into full run you’ll be lucky if you dog’s vet will even have anything to do with you.

    Want the correct answer to protecting yourself against the swamp that is Obamacare?

    Easy buy stock in publicly traded funeral companies, graveyards and monument makers.

  5. Jeffrey Altman, MD Nov. 8, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    This is probably the biggest socioeconomic issue in the US today! Our senior citizens and most vulnerable citizens rely on Medicare for their health care. Health care makes up about 15% of our economy. We all want to control health care costs and make Medicare financing sustainable; however, suddenly allowing double digit cuts to health care providers will have major adverse consequences and sadly our senior citizens will be at the receiving end of many of these. I urge congress to fix the flawed SGR formula once and for all and figure out adequate funding for Medicare. I’m afraid there is no technological cure all for this problem.

  6. Tony Lukac Nov. 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Medicare is $30 trillion in debt, 3 times the national debt. What are they smoking?

  7. ginny2 Nov. 9, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.

    I’m 78 years old and still working and contributing to Social Security. I have been paying into it for many years and I don’t like the word “entitlement” I have paid and am still paying my share. Medicare payments are taken out of all SS checks so we are paying for it. I also carry a supplement at $500 every two months. I don’t feel that the government is giving me anything. I have never been on the rolls and will work until I die before I have to. I have to much pride in myself.