New Senator Cornyn Legislation Would Preserve Patients’ Care
For immediate release
March 27, 2008
Contact: Pam Udall
cell: (512) 413-6807
Contact: Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
If the planned 10.5-percent Medicare cut to physician payments occurs on July 1, physicians will be forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they treat, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) announced Thursday in Houston. TMA unveiled this and other sobering results of a new physician-member survey at Senior's Place, a senior citizen activity center. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) explained how his new legislation, Ensuring the Future Workforce of Physicians Act of 2008 (S 2729) would stop the cut and reverse this dangerous trend.
Senator Cornyn's bill, which is receiving strong support from TMA, repairs the flawed formula Congress uses to calculate physician reimbursements, and saves seniors' health care. And, not a moment too soon, physicians say.
"I wish I could report to you that all is well, that one thing Medicare recipients don't have to worry about is finding a physician to care for them," A. Tomas Garcia, MD, member of TMA's Board of Trustees and president of the Harris County Medical Society, said. "But that is not the case."
Last week's TMA physician survey shows these sobering results:
The percentage of physicians who accept all new Medicare patients has declined to an all-time low of 58.1 percent.
- Nearly one-third of physicians have decided to accept fewer new Medicare patients in the past three years. Only 4 percent are accepting more.
- For internists and family medicine specialists, who are on the front lines providing primary care to patients on Medicare, the situation is even bleaker. More than 45 percent say they have cut back on new Medicare patients in the past three years.
- Texas physicians will not refuse their current Medicare patients. Nearly 70 percent say that is something they will not do.
- But, more than 45 percent are considering accepting no new Medicare patients.
- Charity care may be an early casualty of the Medicare funding crisis. One-fourth of physicians say they already have reduced the amount of charity care they give. An additional 17 percent say they will make that change. Looking to the future, another 28 percent say they are considering reductions in charity care.
"With no real increase in Medicare payments to physicians in five years, and with constant drama and uncertainty over possible cuts in those payments, we're out on the edge of the cliff," noted Dr. Garcia, a Houston cardiologist. "And the fall will be a steep and painful one."
While physicians face annual cuts, the other key Medicare providers - hospitals, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies - receive annual cost-of-living increases because their pay is calculated differently from physicians' reimbursements. Physicians received between zero- and two-percent increases over the last four years, and they face significant cuts in 2008. But Senator Cornyn's bill reverses that, fixing the flawed physician reimbursement formula, called the Sustainable Growth Rate formula. TMA physicians urge Congress to support Senator Cornyn's new legislation to reverse the dangerous trend so that Medicare-covered patients are not left without physicians to care for them.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 43,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. Organized in 1853, TMA's key objective is to improve the health of all Texans.
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