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AMA launches ad campaign pushing Medicare pay reform

Seniors, military families are at risk without a permanent solution to the physician payment problem, the TV ad states.

By Chris Silva — Posted Jan. 26, 2010

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With about two months left for lawmakers to reverse a 21.2% cut in Medicare payments for the rest of 2010, the American Medical Association has stepped up its advocacy efforts with a new television advertisement campaign aimed at pushing the Senate to adopt a permanent solution to the long-term pay problem.

The ad features seniors, military members and their families and states that the upcoming payment cut would negatively impact their access to physicians. "Tell your senators it's time to permanently fix the physician access problem and honor our promise" to Medicare and Tricare beneficiaries, the ad concludes.

"Time is running out for the Senate to act on this important issue for seniors, military families and physicians," said AMA President J. James Rohack, MD. "Our new TV ad expresses the urgency of the issue, as physicians will be forced to make tough practice decisions if Congress does not fix the issue once and for all before March 1."

The AMA has stated it will not support a final House-Senate health system reform bill unless lawmakers make a clear commitment to repealing the sustainable growth rate formula that helps determine Medicare doctor pay. The cut initially was set to go into effect Jan. 1, but the 2010 defense appropriations bill postponed the cut until March 1, buying lawmakers some additional time to act.

A House bill, which passed by a vote of 243-183 in late November 2009, would repeal the 21.2% fee reduction and replace the current payment formula with a new system designed to end the cycle of increasingly larger fee cuts that Congress stops with short-term patches. But the Senate was unable to pass a similar bill last year. The AMA has stated it will no longer support temporary patches.

"This ad is the opening salvo in our two-month campaign to urge the Senate to take immediate action to repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula and replace it with one that reflects the cost of providing care," Dr. Rohack said. "Congress can no longer put a Band-Aid on the problem by passing yet another short-term fix that creates instability in the system for seniors and their physicians. A permanent fix is crucial to building a solid foundation for health reform."

The ads began airing in 10 states on Jan. 16 and can be viewed online (link).

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