WASHINGTON, May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New legislation introduced today by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act (S. 1042), will provide Medicare patients with greater choice, allowing them to see the physicians they want and need to see.
"The Medicare Patient Empowerment Act helps fulfill the promise of Medicare for seniors in Alaska and across the country by creating a new payment option that allows patients to have their choice of physicians while still receiving benefits from the Medicare system they have contributed to for years," said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, M.D.
Currently, seniors who want to see a physician that is not in the Medicare system must pay entirely out of their own pockets. The Medicare Patient Empowerment Act ensures that if patients choose to see a physician that is not in the Medicare system they can still receive the benefits they have earned. For these services, Medicare will pay the amount it typically covers, and the patient pays the physician directly for any difference in what Medicare pays and the full charge.
"Alaska has a below-average physician-to-population ratio compared to other states, and the nearly 65,000 seniors and baby boomers on Medicare in Alaska face significant challenges obtaining access to physician care," said Dr. Wilson. "Medicare should not further limit the options patients have when they seek physician care. Seniors have contributed to Medicare for their entire working lives, and this legislation ensures they can get the care they need when they need it, from any physician they choose."
An Alaska state task force on physician supply warned several years ago of serious shortages in several important specialties, and reported that Medicare patients were already having difficulty finding a primary care physician.
"Severe instability in the Medicare system is causing some physicians to limit the number of Medicare patients they can see, and a scheduled payment cut of nearly 30 percent to physicians on January 1 will only make matters worse," said Dr. Wilson. "The Medicare Patient Empowerment Act allows patients greater choice in the face of an uncertain Medicare system."
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About the American Medical Association (AMA)
The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional, public health and health policy issues. The nation's largest physician organization plays a leading role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit www.ama-assn.org.
SOURCE American Medical Association