AMA Says Public Worried about Medicare, Wants Congress to Act

Eight out of 10 Americans are concerned about access to care for seniors' and baby boomers because of government cuts to physicians caring for Medicare patients, according to a new public poll released on March 19 by the American Medical Association. A telephone survey of 1,006 adults 18 years of age and older living in the continental United States was conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for AMA from Feb. 22-25, 2008.

On July 1, AMA reports that Medicare payments to physicians will be cut 10.6 percent, and over the next decade the cuts will grow to about 40 percent while medical practice costs increase 20 percent.

The AMA survey reports that 60 percent of physicians say this year's cut alone will force them to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat.

"As physicians, we are terribly concerned about how these Medicare cuts will impact our senior patients," said Dr. William A. Hazel, AMA board member. "Seniors and boomers are concerned too, our new poll shows that 88 percent of current Medicare patients are worried about how the cuts will impact their access to health care." The first wave of baby boomers will be eligible for Medicare in three years when they turn 65.

"Military families are at risk too, as the government will also cut payments to physicians caring for military families in the Tricare program," Hazel said.

AMA says action by the U.S. Congress is the only cure to the cuts, citing nearly three-quarters of Americans polled that said they believe Congress should stop the cuts so that physicians can continue to care for Medicare patients. AMA supports the recently introduced Save Medicare Act of 2008 (S. 2785), which it says would replace 18 months of cuts that begin in July with payment increases that better reflect medical practice costs.

AMA has created a Web site so the public can learn about the issue and take action, available at www.patientsactionnetwork.org/index.aspx.

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