A Medicare Fix Is Needed for the Elderly

Access to health care for seniors in America is in jeopardy. Unless Congress acts now, on January 1 the federal government will begin nine years of Medicare cuts to the physicians who care for Medicare patients – our nation’s seniors. Medicare will automatically cut physician payments by about 40 percent over the next nine years, while practice costs increase about 20 percent.

The American Medical Association is concerned about the impact these cuts will have on seniors’ ability to see a doctor. Physicians want to see Medicare patients, but these cuts will force many doctors to make a tough decision. In an AMA survey, nearly half of physicians said they would be forced to either decrease or stop taking new Medicare patients if the first cut goes into effect.

Those physicians who try to continue to take new Medicare patients will be forced to make other difficult practice decisions, such as deferring the purchase of new medical equipment and information technology. When these types of decisions are made to keep the doors open and the lights on, America’s overall ability to improve health care in the digital age suffers.

Physicians’ concerns are shared by the federal advisory committee on Medicare (MedPAC), many in Congress, and the vast majority of Americans. A report by MedPAC shows that one in four Medicare patients seeking a new primary care physician is already having trouble getting an appointment. Eighty Senators and 265 House members have signed letters calling on their leadership to stop these cuts before Congress adjourns in just a few days. When told about the cuts, 86 percent of Americans surveyed said they were concerned that these cuts will hurt seniors’ access to care. Many Americans have shared their concern with their legislators. The AMA’s 1.2-million member “Patients’ Action Network