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


NASHVILLE, Tenn. Aug. 16 -- The American Medical Association (AMA) barnstormed several Tennessee cities beginning today to draw attention to an imminent access to care problem for Tennessee’s more than 870,000 Medicare patients. 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 Immediate Past President John C. Nelson, 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,” said Dr. Nelson. “That is just the tip of the iceberg as the vast majority of cuts are scheduled to come after 2006.”

This week, AMA and Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) leaders visit Memphis, Jackson, Nashville and Chattanooga. The AMA is also running radio and newspaper ads in Tennessee this week urging patients to contact Tennessee’s Congressional delegation to support bipartisan legislation pending in both the U.S. House and Senate to reverse planned Medicare physician payment cuts.

“Members of Congress recognize the severity of the problem, and have introduced three bills to address the payment cuts,” said Dr. Nelson.

In the House, Reps. Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis are co- sponsoring the Preserving Patient Access to Physicians Act of 2005 (H.R. 2356). The AMA encourages Tennessee’s entire delegation to work to stop the payment cuts and preserve access to health care for Tennessee’s seniors.

“Tennessee physicians want to keep treating their Medicare patients, but they are concerned about harsh Medicare cuts,” said TMA President, Phyllis Miller, M.D. “In Tennessee, Medicare payments for physician services will be cut by $58 million next year – that’s a huge loss of federal dollars that help pay for the medical needs of Tennessee’s Medicare patients. By 2011, Tennessee will lose $1.4 billion in federal health care dollars.”

“We’re working to preserve access to care for Tennessee’s senior and disabled patients,” said Dr. Nelson. “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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