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AMA warns of massive Medicare payment cuts unless Congress acts urgently

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 15, 2002 -- New statistics released by the American Medical Association (AMA) indicate that, unless Congress acts, Medicare payments will be cut by $11 billion nationwide over the next three years, jeopardizing access to care for America's seniors.

AMA, the nation's largest physician group, is urging congressional action before the next round of cuts are announced Nov. 1.

"Medicare's foundation is crumbling," said Donald J. Palmisano, MD, JD, AMA President-elect. "Unless Congress acts by Nov. 1, more physicians will be forced to make the difficult decision to stop taking new Medicare patients into their practices."

Because of government errors in calculating the Medicare payment formula, America's physicians, nurses and other health professionals have already taken a 5.4 percent Medicare payment cut and are facing an additional 12 percent in cuts over the next three years.

"Physicians want to serve America's seniors, but they simply cannot afford to accept an unlimited number of Medicare patients into their practices, while facing continued payment cuts," Dr. Palmisano said. "If Congress doesn't act, Medicare payments in 2005 will be back below the 1991 level. These cuts are coming at a time when physicians' practice expenses, particularly medical liability insurance costs, are skyrocketing."

"Medicare beneficiaries are already having trouble finding physicians to treat them in more than half the states surveyed, according to a survey by the Medicare Rights Center," Dr. Palmisano said. "An AMA survey found that 24 percent of physicians have either placed limits on the number of Medicare patients they treat or plan to institute limits in the next few months."

"Unfortunately, these access problems are just the tip of the iceberg, with more than two-thirds of the payment cuts yet to come. When the AMA asked physicians if they would continue to sign Medicare participation agreements if there were more payment cuts, 42 percent said they would not."

"Congress must act in the next few days to stop Medicare payment cuts and keep the Medicare program strong for America's seniors," Dr. Palmisano said.

SOURCE American Medical Association

Posted: October 2002