Seniors, doctors demand physician pay fix

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National organizations representing seniors, members of the military and physicians gathered in Washington Thursday to demand an end to the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula. The formula would will be responsible for a scheduled 21% cut to Medicare physician reimbursements in March.

AARP, The American Medical Association and the Military Officers Association of America told the Senate during Thursday's press conference that action is needed before the scheduled March 1 implementation of the cuts. Though originally designed to curb costs for physician services, the sustainable growth rate formula has never actually been used. As a result, the cost to eliminate it has risen exponentially over the last few years. In 2005, it would have cost Medicare $49 billion to abandon the formula. Today, it costs $210 billion, according to Nancy Nielsen, former president of the AMA.

Without the permanent fix, there is a risk that Medicare physicians will stop seeing some Medicare beneficiaries. Long-term care groups have feared that, to pay for restoration of the physician payment, Congress could take money from nursing homes.


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