AMA appeals to public to get senators to fix Medicare pay

The American Medical Association, outraged about Congress' failure to address physicians' 21 percent pay cut before Memorial Day recess, on June 3 launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to urge the public to contact senators and tell them to "get back to work and fix Medicare now," according to the latest health blog post from the Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, the AMA unveiled a new online survey of 9,000 physicians who care for Medicare patients, which the association says confirms that seniors are already being hurt by Congress' mismanagement of the Medicare program. According to the survey, nearly one in five physicians (17 percent) say they have already been forced to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practice, including 31 percent of primary-care physicians. The top two reasons physicians gave for these actions were the ongoing threat of future cuts and the fact that Medicare payment rates were already too low, according to an AMA press release.

Congress' "kicking the [SGR] can down the road," as AMA President J. James Rohack, MD, puts it, has already negatively affected physicians' businesses. In response to the temporary rate reductions in March and April, 39 percent of physicians delayed payments for supplies, rent or other expenses; 17 percent took out a loan or line of credit to pay bills; and 17 percent held up paychecks or even furloughed or laid-off employees, according to the association's survey.

Such cutbacks, said Rohack, make it less likely that medical practices will invest in health information technology and other improvements that policymakers consider vital to healthcare reform.

To learn more:
- see this article on CNN Money
- check out this piece on MedScape Today
- see the June 2 post on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog
- and here's a WSJ post from June 3
- read the AMA's press release