Massachusetts Seniors, Teaching Hospitals and Doctors Call on Congress to Block Medicare Pay Cut

Contact: Richard Gulla
rgulla@mms.org
(781) 434-7101

Waltham, Mass. -- November 16, 2010 -- Organizations representing senior citizens, teaching hospitals and physicians in Massachusetts today urged Congress to act immediately and block a pending 23 percent cut in physician Medicare fees, arguing that the cut will severely destabilize Medicare and reduce access to care for Medicare's beneficiaries in Massachusetts.

Congress returned to Washington this week for a brief lame-duck session to address a crowded agenda, which includes Medicare. The payment cut, mandated by a congressional budget formula, will take effect Dec. 1 unless Congress acts.

The organizations are asking Congress to delay the payment cut for at least 13 months, to give Congress time to address Medicare long-term issues, particularly the flawed physician payment system.

"Seniors have earned their Medicare and the security of knowing they can keep seeing the doctors they count on," said Deborah Banda, state director of AARP Massachusetts, which represents more than 800,000 members age 50 and older in the Bay State.  "A recent AARP survey shows that no matter what political party they belong to, seniors agree that Congress has a responsibility to keep doctors in the Medicare program.  It's time for Congress to stop pointing fingers and work together to find a common-sense solution that won't drive doctors out of Medicare."

John Erwin, executive director of the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, said "We urge Congress to take action to avert the pending cut and provide enough time for Congress, the Administration, and those impacted by the physician payment formula, time to develop a long term payment approach that maintains access for our seniors while keeping pace with the cost of care."

Alice A. Tolbert Coombs, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said "For many physicians in Massachusetts, Medicare patients account for more than of half of their practice. Doctors want to care for their Medicare patients, but a cut of this magnitude will make it difficult to continue to provide care."

It is estimated that more than 1 million Massachusetts residents are covered by Medicare. Another 71,000 members of military families in Massachusetts are similarly affected, since health insurance for military families is based on the Medicare fee schedule. The coalition also maintains that the Medicare cuts will destabilize hospitals, medical device companies, and other health care organizations, because of the far-ranging effects of the pending cuts.  One in five workers in Massachusetts is employed in health care, and 15 percent of the state's economy is related to health care.

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