AMA prepares to fight reimbursement cuts

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The American Medical Association (AMA) is ready to fight the looming 5.1 percent cut to physicians’ Medicare reimbursement rate, according to an interview AMA President William Plested III gave United Press International.

Plested said the organization’s primary concern is that physicians – particularly geriatricians – won't be able to afford taking on more elderly patients if Medicare doesn't reimburse them properly. According to an AMA study, 45 percent of physicians say the cuts will impact how many Medicaid patients they accept. Physicians who treat their practice as a business will be the first to cut back on their Medicare patient acceptance as they realize how the reimbursements hurt their business's bottom line. Individual doctors, Plested speculated, will be more hesitant to turn Medicare patients away. He suggested that the federal government fix the problem by reimbursing doctors for the actual cost of doing business. In response to objections that Medicare resources are limited, Plested said, “The physician's job is not to pay for something that the government promises to the elderly in this country. The physicians' job is to guarantee a high level of care."

Plested also said that the AMA leadership hopes that Congress will follow the advice of its own Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advised them implement over two years a 2.8-percent payment increase. That would cover the cost-of-living increase in providing the services, and a new, fair cost-of-living-based formula at the end of those two years. “That's what we're hoping against hope that they'll do,” he said. “This is the most ludicrous situation that they force us into. People are getting tired of this. We're spending our time lobbying for better reimbursement rather than seeing the patients that desperately need us.”