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Dear Congress: Replace Broken Physician Payment System

DrCBy John D. Cacciamani, Jr., MD, MBA

I am writing to ask that we take action now during Congress’s  lame-duck session this November to once again avert a Medicare access crisis.  Congress must break the cycle of pushing the crisis in patient access to physician care into the future a few months at a time, and take action on legislation to provide stability and predictability for the program at least through 2011.

The ultimate solution is to permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula with a system that keeps pace with the cost of caring for our seniors. Continuing the practice of enacting temporary patches serves no one well. As physicians, we are committed to taking the leadership in developing Medicare payment reforms to replace the SGR once and for all.

Pennsylvania seniors could face significant challenges obtaining access to physicians. These challenges will get much worse unless Congress acts now to prevent steep cuts in Medicare payment rates. Nearly one in three of the state’s Medicare beneficiaries are living below 150% of the federal poverty level.  Pennsylvania is also one of 29 states that have imposed cuts in services for the low-income elderly, such as home care and rehabilitation.

Combining cuts that will occur on December 1, 2010, and January 1, 2011, Pennsylvania Medicare physician services face an across-the-board pay cut of nearly 30%. By taking quick action now, Congress can avert these cuts. During the 13 months from December 1, 2010 through December 31, 2011, SGR legislation would prevent a loss of nearly $1 billion for the care of elderly and disabled patients in Pennsylvania.

Congress must act to replace the broken physician payment system before the cost to fix it grows even larger.  Call your members of Congress at 800-833-6354 and demand they fix the problem once and for all.

John D. Cacciamani, Jr., MD, MBA, is President of The Philadelphia County Medical Society (www.philamedsoc.org).

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