Healthcare Business News

AMA urges action on Medicare payments

By Jennifer Lubell
Posted: February 22, 2010 - 5:30 pm ET

With a sizable cut to Medicare physician payments taking effect in just one week, the American Medical Association is seeking clarity from Congress on its plan of action to stop the 21.2% reduction.

“The pathway for addressing the underlying problem remains a mystery,” AMA President J. James Rohack wrote in a letter to congressional lawmakers.

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Recent attempts to pass a sustainable growth-rate fix in the House and Senate have failed. Another setback occurred several weeks ago when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided to strip a provision from the Senate jobs bill that would have frozen current Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians until Oct. 1.

Medicare's SGR formula has been threatening cuts to physicians since 2003. The profession faces a 21.2% cut to its Medicare payments on March 1 unless lawmakers intervene, as they have in the past, to stop the scheduled reduction.

In his letter, Rohack made it clear that another stopgap solution wasn't adequate to address the longer-term problems of the SGR formula.

“Kicking the can down the road with yet another short-term action magnifies the problem and makes it very difficult for physicians to continue caring for seniors and military families,” Rohack said, noting that short-term solutions would increase the cost of healthcare reform and the size of the cut.

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