All Updates

Physicians got a brief reprieve from a 27 percent Medicare pay cut as the U.S. House of Representatives reached agreement with the Senate on a two-month extension of important policies that expire on Jan. 1.

AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, called on Congress to “enact a real and fiscally responsible solution to this sorry cycle of scheduled cuts and short-term patches that compromises access to care for patients and drives up costs for taxpayers. Members of Congress need to use this time to work in a bipartisan manner to provide long-term stability for seniors, military families and the physicians who care for them.”

Stay tuned for further updates and for ways to get involved to end this cycle of short-term Medicare patches.

With the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failing to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction proposal, physicians still face a 27 percent cut in Medicare physician payments scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Congress has missed an opportunity to address the nation’s fiscal problems, stabilize the Medicare program and permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

“The deficit committee had a unique opportunity to stabilize the Medicare program for America’s seniors now and for generations to come,” AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, said in a statement. “Once again, Congress failed to stop the charade of scheduled annual physician payment cuts and short-term patches that spend more taxpayer money to perpetuate a policy all agree is fatally flawed. A decade of uncertainty and repeated threats of steep cuts threaten access to care for seniors and military families who rely on the Medicare and TRICARE programs.”

Proposals to repeal the SGR fell victim to disagreement over fundamental principles for achieving deficit reduction. Sharp partisan division over the mix of entitlement cuts and tax hikes prevented the supercommittee from reaching any agreement on a deficit-reduction package.

Congressional action expected to avert 27 percent cut on Jan. 1

Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have publicly stated their commitment to take action this year to avert the 27 percent cut. Options for SGR relief outside of the supercommittee process have ranged from short-term patches of a year or two to longer-term relief that provides for transition to a new Medicare physician payment system.

The scope of the next SGR intervention will not come into better focus until Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break. Congress has a number of items of unfinished business that require action before departing for the Christmas holidays. Stay tuned for future updates via the Patients’ Action Network.

What can you do at this juncture?

Register your strong concerns with your members of Congress that yet another SGR deadline is approaching and Congress has yet to act. Call the Patients’ Action Network hotline at (888) 434-6200 and ask your representatives and senators what specific steps they will take to end the annual SGR fiasco.

If they tell you that they are “with you,” remind them about the multiple missed deadlines in 2010. Patients and physicians need action rather than vague expressions of support.

Thanks for past grassroots efforts; frustration, fatigue understandable

Thanks to all of you who have responded to our calls to action. Your hard work has helped us generate a massive grassroots outcry from both physicians and patients on behalf of SGR repeal, with more than 250,000 email and phone call contacts to Congress on this issue in just a few months. Keep up the good work!

The AMA launched a TV and radio advertising campaign to urge patients and physicians to tell Congress that the time for repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula is now. The ads are part of the AMA’s grassroots effort to urge patients and physicians to contact Congress and encourage repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), Medicare’s physician payment formula, before the 30 percent cut occurs on January 1. Watch the television ad below and then take action. Email your Representative and Senators and tell them growing the problem is not the solution – repeal SGR and stop the Medicare physicians payment cuts! Then call them using the Patients’ Action Network hotline at (888) 434-6200.

Another week. Same story. Patients face drastic cuts in Medicare services unless Congress takes action to reform physician payment systems like the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. If not repealed, the SGR will hit Medicare physicians with a 30 percent cut on January 1. Cuts of this magnitude would have a detrimental impact on patients’ access to care.

Congress must act!

The path forward began with a new committee to address the nation’s growing budget deficit. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “supercommittee,” concluded its second week of formal meetings to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by discussing potential reforms to the tax code, Social Security and Medicare — including repeal of the SGR.

The supercommittee began the week with a recommendation from President Obama to repeal the SGR. The president isn’t alone. Multiple bipartisan deficit reduction proposals have been reviewed by the supercommittee. The message is clear: End the short-term budget gimmicks, protect Medicare services in a fiscally responsible manner and repeal the SGR.

Patients remain engaged in the fight to stop drastic cuts that put Medicare services at risk. Every email and every call to Congress enhances the message that repeal of the SGR will protect access to care while achieving a fiscally responsible solution to the nation’s deficit.

HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

Congress must hear from constituents in their districts. Please help us keep up the pressure on all members of Congress and continue contacting your representative and senators by using our toll-free grassroots hotline. Call (888) 434-6200 to be connected with their district offices today. Tell them that eliminating the SGR is an essential element of any effort to reform Medicare. Urge them to promote the message that a repeal of the SGR should be part of any solution to address the budget deficit — failure to act only leads to increased costs in the future.

Congress must make SGR repeal a priority for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

The new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or “Super Committee,” recently held its first formal hearing. The committee is charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction spending over a 10-year period. While no formal proposals have been presented yet, potential savings of this magnitude will involve a wide array of government projects and services, and serious cuts in many areas are actively being discussed.

As this process unfolds, it’s important that legislators take a careful approach to proposed entitlement reforms to Social Security and Medicare so that vital access to critical health care services is not put in jeopardy. This includes providing a permanent fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that is producing steep cuts in Medicare payments for physician health care services year after year.

During last week’s hearing, committee co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) commented on the pending 29.5 percent cut to Medicare physician payments that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, and how patients could potentially risk access to care if those cuts are allowed to occur. Referencing the flawed SGR formula this early in the committee process is encouraging, but grassroots pressure is still important to reinforce repealing SGR as part of any effort to address the budget deficit.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

The following is a list of the 12 Super Committee members who need to hear from you on repealing the SGR! Click on the names below and you can instantly send them an urgent message on this critical issue direct to their Twitter account.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)* Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)

*Sen. Baucus does not currently have a Twitter account. If you do not have a Twitter account please consider opening one. It’s free to join!

In addition, please help us keep up the pressure on all members of Congress and continue contacting your representative and senators by using our toll-free grassroots hotline. Call (888) 434-6200 to be connected with their offices and CLICK HERE to send them an urgent email message today. Tell them that eliminating the SGR is an essential element of any effort to reform Medicare. Urge them to promote the message that a permanent fix to the physician payment system should be part of any serious effort to address the budget deficit—failure to act only leads to increased costs in the future.

Congress must make SGR repeal a priority for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Stay tuned for additional information over the coming weeks. The Patients’ Action Network will be providing regular and timely updates on the Super Committee, how their proposals may affect access to care for millions of Americans, and how you can ensure your voice is heard in this critical debate!

The AMA, along with ten other medical specialty societies, sent the following video message to Congress today explaining why a full repeal of Medicare’s flawed SGR formula needs to be included in the debt ceiling/ deficit reduction package currently being crafted.

American Medical Association President Cecil B. Wilson, M.D. recently testified before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee about the need to move beyond the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Without action by Congress, the SGR will trigger a Medicare physician payment cut of nearly 30 percent on January 1, 2012. Video of Dr. Wilson’s testimony can be found below.

Legislation concerning one of the American Medical Association’s top issues — medical liability reform — is moving forward in the U.S. House as the Energy and Commerce Committee considers H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act.

America’s patients, physicians, and taxpayers are breaking under the weight of meritless medical liability lawsuits. The numbers tell the story:

$70-126 Billion Amount of medical liability costs that are passed on to patients each year.
$54 Billion CBO estimate of the federal deficit reduction over a 10-year period if medical liability reform is enacted.
64% Percentage of medical liability claims that were dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed.
88% Percentage of tried medical liability claims in 2009 that were won by the physician.

The current medical liability system fails both patients and physicians — it hurts the quality of patient care and costs the nation billions. For the health of American, we need medical liability reform now.

Patients can get involved and show support for H.R. 5 and medical liability reform by joining the AMA’s Patients’ Action Network (PAN). After joining, take these steps in support of H.R. 5.

1. Sign-up for the PAN and email your legislators.
2. Learn if your representative has sponsored or co-sponsored H.R. 5.
3. Call your representative using the toll-free PAN hotline at (888) 434-6200 and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 5. If they have already co-sponsored H.R. 5 thank them for supporting medical liability reform.
4. Follow the PAN on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on medical liability reform and other issues affecting patients’ access to care.

To learn more about medical liability reform please visit our issue page.

There are a total of 20 physician members of the 112th Congress including three senators, 16 representatives and a delegate. This up from 16 physician members in the 111th Congress, an increase of 25 percent. Family medicine and obstetrics/ gynecology are the most represented medical specialties with four members each. Emergency medicine, ophthalmology and orthopedic surgery are each represented by two members of Congress while general surgery, cardio-thoracic surgery, thoracic surgery, gastroenterology, anesthesiology and psychiatry are represented with a single member.

Learn more about the 20 physician members of Congress by connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

House of Representatives

Rep. Dan Benishek, MD (R-MI-01)
General Surgery


Rep. Charles Boustany, MD (R-LA-07)
Cardio-Thoracic Surgery


Rep. Paul Broun, MD (R-GA-10)
Family Medicine


Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN-08)
Thoracic Surgery


Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX-26)
OB/GYN


Rep. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA-06)
Gastroenterology


Del. Donna Christensen, MD (D-VI-AL)
Emergency Medicine


Rep. Scott DesJarlais, MD (R-TN-04)
Family Medicine


Rep. John Fleming, MD (R-LA-04)
Family Medicine


Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA-11)
OB/GYN


Rep. Andy Harris, MD (R-MD-01)
Anesthesiology


Rep. Nan Hayworth, MD (R-NY-19)
Ophthalmology


Rep. Joe Heck, DO (R-NV-03)
Emergency Medicine


Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA-07)
Psychiatry


Rep. Ron Paul, MD (R-TX-14)
OB/GYN


Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA-06)
Orthopedic Surgery


Rep. David “Phil” Roe, MD (R-TN-01)
OB/GYN


Senate

Sen. John Barrasso, MD (R-WY)
Orthopedic Surgery


Sen. Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK)
Family Medicine


Sen. Rand Paul, MD (R-KY)
Ophthalmology


The multiple Medicare patches Congress passed in 2010 were only temporary reprieves for seniors and baby boomers who rely on the promise of Medicare. Delaying the problem is not a solution.

In January 2012, the Medicare physician payment cut will be a whopping 25 percent. Congress is playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with seniors’ health care. Sick patients can’t wait. Congress must replace the broken payment system before the damage is done and cannot be reversed.

Seniors are already experiencing access problems as a result of the complete congressional mismanagement of Medicare over the years. Baby boomers begin entering Medicare in 2011, and if the physician payment problem isn’t fixed, these new Medicare patients won’t be able to find a doctor to treat them.

Failure by Congress and the Obama Administration to properly solve this issue will intensify access problems for seniors and military families enrolled in the TriCare program, and severely undermine implementation of recently enacted health system reform legislation. An existing physician shortage will be magnified and steeper cuts will prevent practice and delivery innovations.

Tell your members of Congress that it is time to end their mismanagement of these important health care programs, and honor their commitment to military families and older Americans. It is long past time for Congress to find a long-term solution to the SGR that does not create an even bigger problem in the future.

About one in four Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician are having trouble finding one. About one in five physicians are already limiting the number of Medicare patients they treat because of the instability and uncertainty of Medicare payment. Couple these facts with a government-predicted shortage of 85,000 physicians by 2020 and the future for Medicare patients’ access to care is bleak—unless we take steps to turn the tide.

Please contact your members of Congress. Urge them to avert the 25 percent cut without increasing the cost of a permanent solution, and preserve access to medical services for Medicare patients and military families. Tell them enough is enough! Growing the problem is not the solution!

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