With the hard-won 2003 Medicare physician payment relief signed into law just three months ago, the AMA this week is starting its campaign to make the fix long-term.
In an advertisement placed to catch the eyes of Congress--the new spot will be running in Roll Call, National Journal, Congress Daily and other publications in coming weeks--the AMA is asking lawmakers to replace what doctors call a flawed Medicare physician payment formula.
The ad shows the complicated formula written on a blackboard and says, "Know What This Equals? Bad News for America's Seniors." The text says the formula "defies logic" because it is tied to the swings of the nation's economy, with the result of fewer physicians participating in Medicare after repeated cuts, thereby reducing seniors' access to care.
President Bush in February signed a $397.4 billion 2003 omnibus appropriations bill that replaced a scheduled 4.4% reduction in Medicare payments to physicians with a 1.6% increase.
But soon after, CMS predicted that Medicare physician payments likely will be cut by 4.2% in January 2004.
"Under the current payment formula, physicians are penalized if services to Medicare patients grow more rapidly than the gross domestic product," says AMA President Yank Coble, Jr., M.D., in a written statement. "At times of slow economic growth, it is likely that Medicare spending on physician services will exceed the target and trigger cuts in physician payments."
The Medicare Payment Advisory Committee has recommended that Congress replace the current Medicare payment formula and that physicians get a 2.5% instead of a 4.2% cut in 2004.
"Unless we change the physician payment formula, Medicare payments will continue to plummet, making it more difficult for our nation's seniors to get the health care they need and deserve," Coble says. "It's time for Congress to deliver a Medicare payment formula that makes sense and gives seniors the care they need."