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AMA Urges Congress to Halt Medicare Cuts; Avert Medicare Access Problem; Texas First Stop in AMA ’National House Call’ Medicare Campaign


WASHINGTON, June 6 -- The American Medical Association (AMA) barnstormed several Texas cities beginning today to draw attention to an imminent access to care problem for Texas’ seniors. If Congress does not act, payments to physicians nationwide are scheduled to be cut well below the cost of providing care, forcing physicians to make difficult decisions about limiting the number of new Medicare patients.

“Over the next six years, Medicare payments are scheduled for cuts of 26 percent, while at the same time the cost of caring for patients will rise 15 percent,” said AMA Board Chair and Temple, Texas cardiologist J. James Rohack, M.D. “Physicians want to serve senior patients, but they cannot afford to accept an unlimited number of new Medicare patients into their practices if Medicare payments do not keep up with the cost of providing care.”

A recent AMA survey showed that 38 percent of physicians will stop taking new Medicare patients if the first of six scheduled payment cuts goes into effect January 1. That is just the tip of the iceberg, as the vast majority of cuts are scheduled to come after 2006.

“This AMA ’House Call’ to Texas is the first of many nationwide to raise seniors’ awareness,” said Dr. Rohack. “If Congress does not act soon to halt the payment cuts, Medicare patients’ access to care will be in jeopardy.”

Today, AMA and Texas Medical Association (TMA) leaders visit Dallas and Fort Worth; tomorrow, Corpus Christi and Houston. The AMA is also running radio ads throughout East Texas this week urging patients to contact Texas’ Congressional delegation to support bipartisan legislation pending in both the U.S. House and Senate to reverse planned Medicare physician payment cuts. In the House, Texas Reps. Pete Sessions and Sheila Jackson-Lee are co-sponsoring the Preserving Patient Access to Physicians Act of 2005 (H.R. 2356), and the AMA encourages Senators Hutchison and Cornyn to do the same for the Senate legislation (S. 1081).

“Physicians want to keep treating their Medicare patients, but they are concerned about harsh Medicare cuts,” said TMA President Robert Gunby, Jr. M.D. “In Texas, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by $169 million next year -- that’s a huge loss of federal dollars that should be going toward caring for Texas’ Medicare patients.”

“Texas is still a frontier of wide-open spaces dotted by little one-physician towns,” said Immediate Past-President Bohn Allen, M.D. “These cuts may be enough to force rural physicians into retirement, leaving some Medicare patients with limited health care options.”

“We’re working to preserve access to care for Texas’ senior and disabled patients,” said Dr. Rohack. “It’s critical that our legislators act now to stop Medicare cuts before the gap between Medicare payments and the cost of providing care reaches unsustainable proportions. Physicians are the foundation of Medicare -- we cannot let that foundation crumble.”


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