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AMA, Other Groups Push to Kill Proposed Physician Pay Cut

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 22, 2010

The American Medical Association joined hands with the Military Officers Association and the AARP Thursday in urging seniors to demand Congress kill a 21% physician pay cut scheduled for March 1.

"Every time Congress kicks this can down the road and fails to permanently repeal the payment formula, the price tag grows," said Nancy Nielsen, MD, AMA past president. "Had Congress fixed this problem permanently in 2005, the price tag would have been $49 billion. Now the price tag has skyrocketed to $210 billion."

She, AMA President-elect Cecil Wilson, MD, AARP leader Rodger Wetzel, MOA Deputy Director Captain Kathy Beasley, and other AMA leaders said without Congress action, physicians now contracting with Medicare and TRICARE will start to drop out, leaving baby boomers and other seniors even more challenged to find a doctor.

"Let's stop living in a fantasy world ... (thinking) that 21% cuts can be tolerated without blowing up Medicare. Everyone knows that should not happen," Nielsen said.

Yet it already is to some extent, with one in four of the 46 million seniors now covered by the country's biggest single-payer system, already experienced a problem finding a doctor, she said.

The campaign features a television ad in which the announcer says: "After a lifetime of service and hard work, America promised to honor veterans and seniors with healthcare they can count on. But in March, physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients face a 21% cut. And seniors and military families will pay the price, with fewer doctors and less access to the care they've earned.

"Join the AMA and AARP in telling our senators: It's time to permanently fix the physician access problem. And honor our promise."

"Access to healthcare is already the single biggest problem for military beneficiaries of all ages, and these cuts will make the problem worse. The last thing troops in combat should have to worry about is whether their sick spouse or child can find a doctor to treat them," Beasley said.

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