The American Medical Association (AMA) is working around the clock to stop Medicare payment cuts to doctors before Congress comes to a close this year. We will not rest until doctors and patients get the attention and action they deserve.

Seniors’ access to health care hangs in the balance. If Congress doesn’t act now, the first of nine cuts will go into effect on January 1, forcing doctors to make difficult practice decisions. A 40 percent cut to payments over nine years, as practice costs increase 20 percent, will make it difficult for many doctors to continue to see seniors. These cuts come on top of already-insufficient payments. Currently, Medicare pays doctors the same as it did in 2001.

The effect of the looming cuts is clear. If the first cut goes through in 2007, nearly half of doctors will be forced to limit the number of seniors they see. And seniors are already having trouble getting in to see their doctor. A report by the commission that advises Congress on Medicare shows that 25 percent of Medicare patients seeking a new primary care physician are already having trouble getting an appointment.

Stopping the cuts is a priority for the AMA that many legislators have echoed, yet have failed to act upon. 80 Senators and 265 Representatives have signed letters to their leadership urging action. This is a problem that Congress can fix, if legislators match words with action.

The AMA is committed to stopping the cuts. We’ve worked hard to ensure our message is heard loud and clear across the country and on Capitol Hill.

Patients are committed to stopping the cuts. A new public poll commissioned by the AMA found that when told about the cuts, 86 percent of Americans are concerned they will harm seniors’ access to care. Over the past year, the AMA’s patients’ action network has generated nearly one million contacts to Congress voicing concern.

It’s time for Congress to follow through with their commitment and act before going home for the year.