With a 21% Medicare reimbursement cut for physicians looming on March 1, the American Medical Association this weekend began airing tv ads that call on the Senate to permanently fix what has become an annual sideshow. The ads are airing in 10 states through the end of January.
"Time is running out for the Senate to act on this important issue for seniors, military families and physicians," said AMA President J. James Rohack, MD, in a media release. "Our new TV ad expresses the urgency of the issue, as physicians will be forced to make tough practice decisions if Congress does not fix the issue once and for all before March 1."
In 1997, Congress mandated Medicare spending cuts that were scheduled to begin in 2001. Those cuts have never taken effect, because each year the AMA, and other healthcare lobbying groups, push Congress to delay the cuts for another year. With each annual Band-Aid fix, however, the next year's cuts get deeper.
In October, AMA lobbied unsuccessfully for a bill that would have reset the sustainable growth rate formula for physicians back to zero to eliminate around $245 billion debt that has accumulated during the past six years as a result of Congress' annual fixes. The bill mustered only 47 of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the Senate floor.
The latest AMA ad focuses on seniors, veterans, and active military families, which are groups the AMA says will be hurt by physician payment cuts. A voice-over in the ad says: "Physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients face a 21% cut, and seniors and military families will pay the price with fewer doctors and less access to the care they've earned."
"This ad is the opening salvo in our two-month campaign to urge the Senate to take immediate action to repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula and replace it with one that reflects the cost of providing care," Rohack said. "Congress can no longer put a Band-Aid on the problem by passing yet another short-term fix that creates instability in the system for seniors and their physicians. A permanent fix is crucial to building a solid foundation for health reform."