Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

AMA Delegates Demand Fix for Medicare Formula. (Protest Vote at Interim Meeting)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

AMA Delegates Demand Fix for Medicare Formula. (Protest Vote at Interim Meeting)

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- Wearing white lab coats and waving colorful signs, physicians at the interim meeting of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates protested the flawed Medicare payment formula and vowed to lobby Congress to get it fixed.

Taking advantage of the interim meeting's new focus on advocacy and policy issues, delegates approved an aggressive lobbying plan on the issue. A protest rally broke out shortly after that vote.

"Everyone is steamed" about the forthcoming 4.4% cut in physician reimbursement, which will add to the 5.4% cut they incurred in 2002, board of trustees member Dr. Cecil Wilson told this newspaper.

Further, the decreased reimbursement seems to be eroding access to care for Medicare patients: A survey of more than 500 AMA members conducted last summer revealed that nearly 1 in 4 (24%) had either placed limits on the number of Medicare patients they treated, or planned to institute limits in the next 6 months.

"Doctors can't treat patients if they can't afford to keep their offices open, Robert McMillan, public member of the AMA's board of trustees, yelled out to cheering delegates. The bedlam intensified when a stream of residents and medical students wearing T-shirts reading "Fix the Medicare Mistake" ran through the hall, chanting for a "fix."

These fighting words sought to give new life to organized medicine's lobbying effort after a disappointing year on Capitol Hill. Several bills aimed at solving the biggest problems for physicians--medical malpractice reform as well the payment formula--never gained momentum beyond the U.S. House.

Eleventh-hour lobbying efforts also couldn't get the Senate to act on an unemployment benefits bill from the House (H.R. 5063) that would have provided legal protection to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, should it attempt to fix the payment formula.

Last fall, the CMS pushed back the effective date for the new fee schedule. In doing so, the agency left a narrow window for the new Congress to fix the payment formula when it reconvenes this month. …

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