Organized medicine stands up against Medicare pay cuts

Medical societies sign a letter warning Congress that a 23% reduction could force some physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients they treat.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Oct. 11, 2010

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Preventing a 23% Medicare physician payment cut is one of several major tasks Congress faces when members return Nov. 15. The American Medical Association and dozens of other medical societies are reminding lawmakers that stopping the reduction before it takes effect on Dec. 1 is crucial to keeping Medicare sustainable.

The AMA, 65 national medical societies and 24 state societies sent a letter to Congress on Sept. 29 asking members to stabilize Medicare physician pay, at least through 2011. Congress adopted short-term delays of the cuts several times in 2010, including once after contractors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began to process Medicare claims with the cuts.

Many physicians are uncertain about the future of Medicare in their practice, said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD. The 23% cut is scheduled to take effect as physicians are eligible to change their Medicare participation status. "Although these physicians are dedicated to their Medicare patients, many will be forced to consider changes, including limiting the number of Medicare patients they can accept," he said.

Preventing the Medicare cuts is one of three tough jobs that await members of Congress upon their return to Washington, D.C. Members adjourned on Sept. 30 to campaign in their districts for the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Congress still needs to adopt a full fiscal 2011 budget. The House and Senate in late September adopted a measure to fund the federal government through Dec. 3, mostly at fiscal 2010 levels. Federal fiscal 2011 began Oct. 1.

Congress also must decide whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. They expire on Jan. 1, 2011. Republicans have called for a permanent extension, but Democrats want to continue them for everyone earning $250,000 or less annually. The GOP proposal would cost $700 billion more than the Democrats' proposal over a decade, according to the Treasury Dept.

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