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AMA Urges Congress to Halt Medicare Cuts; Avert Medicare Access Problem for Seniors -- AMA Pays a ’House Call’ on Iowa Encouraging Seniors to Act Now


CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association (AMA) barnstormed several Iowa cities beginning today to draw attention to an imminent access to care problem for Iowa seniors. If Congress does not act, payments to physicians 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 Trustee William A. Hazel, Jr., 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. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the state of Iowa has 482,340 Medicare recipients.

Today, AMA and Iowa Medical Society (IMS) leaders visit Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines tomorrow. The AMA is also running radio and newspaper ads throughout Iowa this week urging patients to contact Iowa’s Congressional delegation to support bipartisan legislation pending in both the U.S. House and Senate to reverse planned Medicare physician payment cuts.

“Senator Grassley has long been a champion for Iowa’s Medicare patients and the physicians who serve them, and we encourage him to act soon to stop the impending Medicare cuts,” said Dr. Hazel. “In the House, Iowa Reps. Leonard Boswell, Tom Latham and Jim Leach are co-sponsoring the Preserving Patient Access to Physicians Act of 2005 (H.R. 2356), and the AMA encourages all of Iowa’s representatives to sign on in support. Just this week, Sen. Tom Harkin signed on in support of S. 1081, and we thank him for his efforts.”

“Iowa physicians want to keep treating their Medicare patients, but they are concerned about harsh Medicare cuts,” said IMS President Stephen Richards, D.O. “In Iowa, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by $24 million next year - that’s a huge loss of federal dollars that should be going toward caring for Iowa’s Medicare patients.”

“We’re working to preserve access to care for Iowa’s senior and disabled patients,” said Dr. Hazel. “If Congress does not act soon to halt the payment cuts, Medicare patients’ access to care will be in jeopardy. Physicians are the foundation of Medicare -- we cannot let that foundation crumble.”


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