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AMA Decries Looming Medicare Cuts; Cites Poll Supporting Congressional Action

November 8, 2010
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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Ninety-four percent of Americans are concerned about a looming Medicare cut to doctors, according to a new American Medical Association (AMA) poll released today at the organization’s semi-annual meeting of physician leaders. Without congressional action, physicians caring for seniors face a 25% cut that will affect seniors’ health care. A new AMA ad is being published nationally today in USA Today and will also run in Washington, D.C. publications next week when Congress reconvenes.

“Our new poll sends a message to Congress that the American people want them to stop the Medicare cut with 95% of seniors saying Congress should act immediately to stop it,” said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, M.D. from a news conference at the meeting. “On December 1 the cut begins, and if Congress has not acted seniors will suffer.

According to the AMA, about one in five physicians say they have been forced to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practice because of the ongoing threat of cuts and the fact that Medicare payment rates were already too low. “Physicians want to care for seniors, but it is nearly impossible for many physicians to keep their practices open to all Medicare patients when they face a 25% payment cut,” said Dr. Wilson.

“Without physicians, there is no care in Medicare,” said Dr. Wilson. The roller-coaster ride caused by Congress’ inability to stop the cut for at least a year is eroding physicians’ confidence and commitment to Medicare—right during Medicare’s open enrollment season for physicians. There is a growing concern that Medicare is becoming an unreliable payer. Congress must allay that fear by stopping the cut for at least 13 months, which will provide time to begin working on a permanent solution in the new year.”
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There is such an intense effort to keep people in their homes that it is driving Medicare costs up to provide home health care and Medicare is duplicating care already provided in nursing homes when Hospice is present as a duplicating service in the LTC facilities. The nursing home staff can handle the resident care with physician help for end of life through comfort care programs. It is foolish to pay Hospices a daily rate when they may only come to the facility once or twice a week, especially when patients are put on too early. If Hospice is going to continue, it should be at a reasonable fee for service rate. Only then do they need to be in the facilities duplicating nursing care, etc. that is expected of the LTC staff.

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