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 today by the American Medical Association (AMA). On July 1, 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.

Seniors who rely on Medicare will be hurt by the Medicare cuts, as 60 percent of physicians say this year's cut alone will force them to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat. Already 30 percent of Medicare patients looking for a new primary care physician are having trouble finding one, and the cuts will make access woes much worse.

"As physicians, we are terribly concerned about how these Medicare cuts will impact our senior patients," said AMA Board Member William A. Hazel, MD "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," said Dr. Hazel.

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

"Congress has only a short window of time to act as the first Medicare cut begins in three months," said Dr. Hazel. "Physicians and now patients have spoken: Congress should stop the cuts to preserve seniors' access to care."

The AMA has created a Web site so the public can learn about the issue and take action.

"There's still time for Congress to act, and this poll shows that the vast majority of Americans want lawmakers to make this a priority," said Dr. Hazel.

A telephone survey of 1,006 adults 18 years of age and older living in the continental United States was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for the American Medical Association (AMA) from Feb. 22-25, 2008. The margin of error is +/-3 percent.

American Medical Association

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