For immediate release
Oct. 16, 2009
Contact: Pam Udall
cell: (512) 413-6807
Contact: Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
Every year, Congress has to put a Band-Aid on the Medicare program so senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and military families can keep their doctors. "For a senior, seeing their doctor can mean everything ― independence, hope, security - and Medicare makes it possible," said Texas Medical Association (TMA) President William H. Fleming III, MD.
On Monday, Oct. 19, the U.S. Senate will vote on a bill ― S 1776, the "Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009." The bill repeals the flawed funding formula ( PDF ) used to pay physicians for Medicare services and eliminates the $245 billion debt that has accumulated under the current payment system ( PDF ).
"This is an important first step toward fixing Medicare once and for all, so senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and military families can continue to get the care they deserve," added Dr. Fleming. "Unless we fill in the $245 billion budget hole now, we have no hope for permanent Medicare payment reform."
Without some action by Congress now, physicians' Medicare payments will be cut by 21.5 percent beginning Jan. 1. This cut will grow to about 40 percent by 2016. "Cuts this large threaten the stability and security of the Medicare program," said Dr. Fleming. Constantly looming cuts and low payments also reduce Medicare patients' access to care and keep physicians from participating in quality initiatives and from buying health information technology.
Dr. Fleming said, "We need a permanent solution to protect Medicare and ensure seniors get the security and stability they have earned." That is why TMA is asking U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to vote "YES" on cloture, "YES" to waive the budget act, and "YES" on final passage of S 1776. "This is a vote for patients. It is crucial that our Senators pass S 1776 on Monday," added Dr. Fleming.
Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee approved a health system reform bill, but the work to bring about meaningful reform is far from over; TMA believes Congress must find bipartisan solutions to the complex problems facing health care today.
"Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States, and we surely need some concrete action to right this dire situation," Dr. Fleming said. "But we've also had too much experience with the tactics of the private insurance companies and our problem-plagued Medicaid system to know that coverage does not equal access. We need Congress to enact reforms that give physicians, hospitals, and providers the ability to take care of patients."
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 44,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. TMA's key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
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