AARP Members Urge Congress to Prevent Cuts to Medicare Doc Pay

Dec 06, 2010, 12:52 ET from AARP Illinois

Survey Shows Overwhelming Support for Long Term Solution to Protect Access to Medicare Doctors

CHICAGO, Dec. 6, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Access to doctors is critical to 39 million older Americans on Medicare – including over 1.5 million Illinoisans. But this access might be gravely compromised if Congress takes no action by January 1st, 2011, to prevent a severe cut in pay for Medicare physicians. Today, AARP released a survey of Illinois members, showing overwhelming support for a long term solution that protects patients' access to their doctors. Additionally, a recent telephone town hall found thousands of Illinois members ready to join AARP in its fight to prevent Congress from driving doctors out of Medicare.

Medicare pays doctors through a system known as the Sustainable Growth Rate formula.  This system was originally designed to hold down physician costs by setting limits on spending. However, the system underestimated how much Medicare would spend on tests and procedures for seniors, which caused physician fees to be reduced to stay within spending limits. Now, if Congress fails to block a 25 percent cut, Medicare won't be able to pay doctors what it costs to care for seniors.

"Medicare recipients have earned their health benefits and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can keep their doctors," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director.  "Congress has a responsibility to keep doctors in the Medicare program, and AARP members in Illinois are asking their legislators to keep that promise."

The AARP survey, released today showed that an overwhelming majority of Illinois members across party lines (80%) said they were concerned that doctors may stop treating Medicare patients because of this cut.

Additionally, 78% said they would be more favorable to their Senators if they fought to protect Medicare payments to doctors.  Likewise, 83% of members said they would be less favorable towards their Senators if Congress does nothing to stop this cut, while 64% said that a long-term solution to the problem is needed.

On Friday, over 13,700 AARP members participated in a live telephone town hall, expressing their support and willingness to join AARP's fight to stop Congress from driving doctors out of Medicare.

"Because Congress has failed to address a flawed payment system, seniors may be left without the care they need come January," added Gallo.  "We cannot allow Congress to drive doctors out of Medicare – and AARP members in Illinois are calling on their legislators to fix this problem."

The full survey can be found here: