A Medicare meltdown now seems certain, as the U.S. Senate has left early for the weekend, abandoning seniors, military families and baby boomers. The Senate failed to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula that will cause a drastic 21 percent payment cut to physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients. On Monday, the 21 percent cut goes into effect, forcing physicians to consider the difficult decision to limit the number of Medicare and TRICARE patients they see in order to keep their practice doors open.
"Our message to the U.S. Senate is stop playing games with Medicare patients and the physicians who care for them," said AMA President J. James Rohack, M.D. "It is shocking that the Senate would abandon our most vulnerable patients, making them the collateral damage of their procedural games."
Already, about one in four Medicare patients seeking a primary care physician is having trouble finding one, according to MedPAC, Congress' advisory body on Medicare. Physicians have told AMA that steep Medicare cuts will force them to limit the number of Medicare patients they treat. A new 2010 survey of neurosurgeons found that 60 percent are already reducing the number of Medicare patients in their practices, and cuts will force nearly 40 percent to decrease the number of new Medicare patients they see. More than 18 percent of neurosurgeons will no longer take new Medicare patients.
"The Senate had more than a year to repeal the formula and ensure the security and stability of Medicare and TRICARE, but that opportunity has been squandered," Dr. Rohack said. "This drastic cut will hurt our senior, disabled and military patients, as well as baby boomers who start entering the Medicare program next year."
"Last November, the U.S. House passed legislation (H.R. 3961) that would repeal the broken formula and better update payments to reflect the increasing cost of care," Dr. Rohack said. "AARP and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) have joined with the AMA in calling on the Senate to act, but the Senate has turned its back on America's seniors, military families and baby boomers."
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