Medicine: Use War Money for Medicare

TMA joined the American Medical Association and dozens of other state and national medical organizations in urging Congress to permanently stop the fiscally irresponsible cycle of scheduled cuts and short-term patches to the Medicare physician payment system.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) [PDF], chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, physician groups called for an end to the failed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that threatens access to care for seniors and military families in the Medicare and TRICARE programs. They asked Congress to use projected spending that will not be needed as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down to help pay for ensuring access to health care for military and seniors.

Congressional action in late December delayed the 27.4-percent cut in physicians' Medicare payments from Jan. 1 until March 1.

Using the Overseas Contingency Operations money "provides an opportunity to immediately repeal the SGR and to establish a pathway toward a truly sustainable physician payment system that focuses on improving quality and value for our nation's Medicare beneficiaries," the letter said.

The groups said they "agree that our nation faces significant fiscal challenges, and that Medicare is not immune. However, it is impossible to implement commonsense programmatic reforms while an immediate and constant threat of massive cuts hangs over the program."

The cost to taxpayers for permanent repeal of the Medicare physician payment formula has grown dramatically over the years due to Congress' frequent short-term patches. As recently as 2005, the cost of permanent repeal would have been $48 billion. Today, it is estimated to be nearly $300 billion. If Congress continues to implement the same temporary patches they have in the past, the cost will double again in only five years.

Sixty-three national medical organizations, specialty societies, and medical group management organizations, as well as 45 state medical associations and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, signed the letter.

A recent TMA survey found that almost half the physicians in Texas say they would consider dropping out of Medicare if fees are lowered

To illustrate the impact Medicare fee cuts could have on patients in terms even a child can understand, TMA produced the "Grandma and the Big, Bad SGR" video. Feel free to share the video with your members of Congress, colleagues, friends, family, patients, and staff.


Action, Feb. 1, 2012


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    All these years Physicians were providing free service to indigent patients who presented to the ED and subsequently got admitted for inpatient care. With continued Medicare cuts, I am concerned that many Physicians couldnot afford to provide free inpatient care.

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