Senators' reputations hang on passing doc fix, state AARP says

As Senate leaders consider a proposal for a yearlong fix to avert a scheduled 25 percent reduction in Medicare payments, the aging lobby is warning Congress that failure to stave off the cuts will upset their constituents.

Four in five seniors are worried that their doctors may stop treating Medicare patients if Congress cannot agree on a fix, according to an AARP Massachusetts survey released Wednesday. Meanwhile, 81 percent are concerned about having to find a new doctor if their current physician ceases accepting Medicare.

The poll indicated that more than 75 percent of seniors, regardless of party affiliation, would be more favorable to senators if they fought to protect Medicare payments to doctors. However, 83 said they would view their senators less favorably "if they did nothing to stop this cut."

“Our members are scared that their doctors may stop treating Medicare patients, and that they won’t be able to find a new one,” Deborah Banda, director of AARP Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Across party lines — Democrat, Republican, Independent — they want members of Congress to stop this cut, and say they will view their elected officials less favorably if they don’t.”

More than two-thirds of survey respondents say a more permanent solution to Medicare doctor payments is needed. The president’s debt commission last week agreed in its final proposal, which made overhauling the Medicare physician payment formula a main part of its plan for lowering healthcare costs.