AMA Criticizes Scheduled Medicare Physician Reimbursement Reduction
A scheduled 4.3% reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements could limit access to care for beneficiaries because some physicians might decide to no longer accept new Medicare patients, the American Medical Association said on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "If these predicted cuts take place, physicians will be forced to think twice about taking new Medicare patients," Duane Cady, chair of the AMA board, said at a news conference at the Allegheny County Medical Society.
The news conference, which also included representatives from the Pennsylvania Medical Society, was one of several state visits scheduled by AMA this summer to call on residents to ask lawmakers to take action to prevent the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements.
According to Cady, an AMA survey indicates that 38% of U.S. physicians would decide to no longer accept new Medicare patients in the event that the scheduled reduction in Medicare reimbursements occurs on Jan. 1, 2006. He added that the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements next year is "just the tip of the iceberg," with a 26% decrease scheduled over the next six years.
At the news conference, physicians acknowledged that legislation introduced to prevent the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements could result in increased premiums for beneficiaries.
In an interview after the news conference, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said that he supports proposals that would prevent the reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements without a subsequent increase in premiums for beneficiaries. McClellan said the federal government could expand current Medicare demonstration projects that seek to improve preventive care as part of an effort to increase physician reimbursements, adding, "We're working very hard to ensure beneficiaries have access to physicians" (Fahy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/19).
McClellan on Wednesday and Thursday visited Pennsylvania and Ohio to promote the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. According to the Tribune-Review, stops on his trip included Youngstown, Cleveland and Akron in Ohio, as well as Buffalo, Erie and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania (Stouffer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 8/18).
In Akron, McClellan gave a speech to more than 150 Medicare beneficiaries, providers and senior advocates at the Akron General Health and Wellness Center (Powell, Akron Beacon Journal, 8/19).
In Pittsburgh, he met with Medicare beneficiaries in North Hills, after discussing the benefit in a telephone interview with reporters. During the interview, McClellan said CMS will work with state officials to ensure that residents enrolled in PACE, Pennsylvania's prescription drug assistance program, will receive equal or better coverage under the new Medicare benefit.
PACE has requested the authority to automatically enroll in a single prescription drug plan all PACE beneficiaries who qualify for additional financial assistance under the Medicare benefit. McClellan "stopped short" of saying CMS would grant the request, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Fahy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/19).