TMA joined the American Medical Association, 42 state medical associations, and 33 national specialty societies in asking House Speaker John Boehner to support and cosponsor the "Medicare Patient Empowerment Act" [PDF] (HR 1700) by U.S. Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.).
Texas Reps. Michael Burgess, MD, Pete Sessions, and Sam Johnson are cosponsors. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) introduced a similar bill (S 1042) in the Senate.
"This legislation will help to preserve the patient-physician relationship by allowing seniors to continue to use their Medicare benefit, even with physicians who do not accept Medicare patients," the groups said in a letter to the speaker.
The letter says poor reimbursement and growing administrative burdens are forcing many physicians to leave the Medicare program or limit the number of patients they see.
"Unfortunately, for most Medicare beneficiaries, this also means the end of a relationship with a physician whom they have come to trust," the physicians wrote Speaker Boehner. "Currently, seniors who wish to see a doctor who does not accept Medicare must pay for all services by that physician out of their own pocket. The physician may not seek reimbursement from Medicare for the care provided, nor will Medicare reimburse the beneficiary. This despite the fact that seniors have paid into the program in the form of payroll taxes throughout their working lives.”
Passage of the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act, they wrote, "means Medicare would continue to pay the amount it typically covers today, with the patient paying the doctor directly for the difference between what Medicare pays and what the doctor charges. It would also enable physicians to help patients in financial need by permitting them to charge a lower amount than Medicare currently allows, something they are legally forbidden from doing today."
Allowing patients and physicians to independently and voluntarily contract for care "puts control back into their hands and preserves the relationship with their physician," they concluded.
The AMA will host a webinar explaining the details of the bill at 6 pm June 8. Hosted by AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD, the webinar will outline the major provisions of the bill, review the history of federal and state policy on Medicare fee limits, and discuss steps that physicians can take to build support for the bill. It is free for AMA members and $39 for nonmembers.
Action, June 1, 2011