Organized medicine is beefing up its latest campaign to pressure Congress to halt scheduled Medicare payment cuts of 23% from taking effect, saying patients need to tell lawmakers that a "catastrophe" is at stake as of Dec. 1.
"If they do not do something to block these cuts, they're putting the healthcare and the lives of senior citizens and military families at grave risk," American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, said Sunday during the group's interim House of Delegates meeting in San Diego.
Wilson said AMA leadership is aware that it's unlikely that Congress will vote for a permanent fix before Dec. 1, as the AMA has long urged. Instead, he says, lawmakers should vote for a 1% physician pay increase for one year starting Jan. 1, and delay final vote on the SGR or "sustainable growth rate" formula for 13 months to shore up doctors' confidence in the Medicare program and give newly elected officials time to consider the entire issue.
"It is critical that they act before they go home for Thanksgiving," Wilson says. "Congressional action is the only way to preserve seniors' access for services and prevent a Medicare meltdown.
The scheduled pricetag for postponing the SGR for 13 months is $15 billion, according to the AMA.
The 23% cut, followed by a 1.9% cut scheduled for Jan. 1 for a total of 24.9% is a reduction from the previously feared physician cuts of 23.2% and 6.5% for Dec. 1 and Jan 1., estimates that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revised last week.
Wilson said the pending cuts would be "a demographic tsunami" in its impact on the healthcare system because it will force many physicians to curtail the number of new or existing Medicare patients they are willing to see, a policy that could delay the ability of seniors to access to their physicians, which could have serious consequences to their health.
If they don't, they won't be able to sustain their practices, he said.
"This would be a catastrophe" for seniors who rely on doctors to commit to their participation in the Medicare program, he said.