Medical coalition urges Congress to avert 'devastating' Medicare cuts


"We believe the Congress should not abdicate its responsibility to deliberate and make policy decisions on what is important and needs to be funded," the letter tells lawmakers, referring to the automatic, across-the-board cuts ordered by the sequestration.

"The status quo is unsustainable, and will do considerable harm to the Medicare program as well as the broader healthcare delivery system."

The sequestration was negotiated as part of the August 2011 budget deal, and would cut payments to Medicare providers by two percent unless Congress intervenes before Jan. 1. Providers would see an additional cut of 27 percent if the current SGR fix is allowed to expire on that date.

In their letter, medical groups said that the looming crises "could not occur at a worse time."

"Medicare physician payments have been nearly frozen for a decade," the groups wrote, "while the cost of caring for patients has increased by more than 20 percent."

Leading the charge Wednesday is the American Medical Association (AMA), the largest U.S. physician group.

Together with the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association, the AMA released a report Wednesday concluding that the sequester cuts alone would end more than 750,000 healthcare jobs by 2021.

The cuts would ripple through the healthcare economy, study authors wrote, by slashing healthcare jobs, reducing purchases of health goods and services, and lowering household income among unemployed health workers.