AMA Poll Finds Alarm Over Impending Medicare Cuts

AMA says cuts will harm seniors' access to care, urges Congress to act during fall session

FRIDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Most Americans are worried that seniors' access to medical care will be compromised by a government plan to decrease Medicare physician-reimbursements by nearly 40 percent over the next nine years, according to a poll presented by the American Medical Association at a Sept. 7 press conference in Washington, D.C.

According to an AMA survey conducted earlier this year, 45 percent of physicians would decrease or stop taking new Medicare patients if the government plan goes into effect. Next week, AMA physicians will launch a "House Call" campaign in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to revise the plan before time runs out.

In July, the Opinion Research Corporation surveyed 1,031 adults aged 18 and older for the AMA. The polling company found that seven out of 10 Americans are unaware of the government's plan, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2007 unless Congress acts to revise it this fall. During the next nine years, the plan would decrease Medicare physician-reimbursements by an estimated $200 billion while practice costs are expected to increase by 20 percent, according to the AMA.

When informed about the plan, 86 percent of respondents and 93 percent of baby boomers aged 45 to 54 said it would harm seniors' access to medical care. In five years, the first wave of baby boomers will turn 65 and begin entering the Medicare system.

"Congress needs to stop the Medicare cuts and instead tie physician payments to the cost of caring for America's seniors," AMA board member William A. Hazel, Jr., M.D., said in a prepared statement. "Physicians are committed to caring for their senior patients, but year after year of payment cuts that fall far below practice cost increases make it difficult to continue doing so."

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