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You, Your Doctor and Medicare
November 18, 2009 • Volume 9, Issue 46
The House of Representatives votes tomorrow on H.R. 3961, the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009, which will fix Medicare’s payment formula for doctors, eliminating a drastic 21.5 percent cut scheduled to take effect in 2010.
The Medicare payment formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate, has long been recognized by Democrats and Republicans alike as a poor system for setting payment rates for doctors. In each of the last seven years, under both Democratic and Republican majorities in Congress, the pay cuts mandated under the formula have been overturned. H.R. 3961 would permanently replace this flawed payment formula, and end the annual scramble to preserve access to doctors for people with Medicare. This legislation, together with the House’s recently passed health reform bill, will move Medicare towards a new payment system that focuses on coordination and quality of care.
Without a repeal of the pending pay cuts, millions of older adults and people with disabilities may lose access to the doctors they rely on for their care. H.R. 3961 is an intelligent fix to the current structure, allowing people to maintain and build relationships with their doctors, and receive the quality of care they deserve.Congress will vote this week on this essential legislation. Call your congressperson today at 1-800-828-0498 and urge him or her to vote for H.R. 3961. Congress needs to act now to ensure that people with Medicare can continue to see the doctors they trust in the years to come.
“Congress has long recognized the Sustainable Growth Rate is a poor method for establishing Medicare payment rates for doctors; in each of the last seven years it has voted to override the cuts mandated under the formula. H.R. 3961 would provide a payment update for doctors in 2009 to account for medical inflation and revise the payment system to head off cuts in subsequent years required by the current formula. This will give Congress a new budgetary baseline to establish a payment system that maintains access and encourages the delivery of high-quality care. Another temporary band-aid to avoid next year’s cuts does not deliver the stability that both people with Medicare and health reform efforts need.” (Letter in Support of H.R. 3961, Medicare Rights Center, November 2009)
“The introduction of this companion legislation shows our commitment to preserving seniors’ access to care remains as strong as ever,” said Energy and Commerce Chair Henry A. Waxman (D-CA). “H.R. 3961 is a responsible approach to putting physician payments in Medicare on a stable, sustainable footing for the long term.”
“It is time to stop passing short-term fixes for massive payment cuts that hurt physicians and threaten Medicare access for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman. “This bill will make the payment system work better not just for physicians, but also taxpayers, beneficiaries and the Medicare system as a whole.”
“Democrats have been calling for a permanent fix to the Medicare physician payment problem for years,” said Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “We have now taken one long step towards ensuring that America’s doctors are paid fairly for quality health care services they provide to seniors and the disabled. We remain fully committed to working with doctors and the medical community to see this bill through to the President’s desk for his signature.”
“For too long, our doctors have been forced to do business with great uncertainty,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Year to year, they hold their breath waiting to see if Congress will do the right thing and replace SGR with physician payment system. The time has come to fix this once and for all.” (House Leaders Unveil Reform to Medicare Payments for Physicians, House Committee on Ways and Means, October 2009)
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The Louder Our Voice, the Stronger Our Message
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Asclepios—named for the Greek and Roman god of medicine who, acclaimed for his healing abilities, was at one point the most worshipped god in Greece—is a weekly e-newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date with Medicare program and policy issues, and advance advocacy strategies to address them. Please help build awareness of key Medicare consumer issues by forwarding this action alert to your friends and encouraging them to subscribe today.
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The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.
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