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Medicare Cuts Threaten Access to Health Care for Seniors

(CHICAGO) July 8, 2008 /PRNewswire/—Last month the United States Senate failed to pass the "Medicare Improvements for Patient and Providers Act" (H.R. 6331). As a result, a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians and other providers went into effect on July 1, leaving the physician-patient relationship in great jeopardy.

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) has heard from thousands of its physician members expressing their frustration over the Senate's inability to protect patients. Many are sorry to report that this cut is making it impossible for them to continue accepting Medicare patients in their practices. This decision is especially difficult because, as osteopathic physicians (D.O.s), they have taken an oath to place the needs and interests of patients first. Physicians simply cannot continue to incur the costs of treating Medicare patients as usual when the costs of treatment outpace reimbursement by upwards of 30 percent, increasing a gap that has continued to grow steadily over the last decade.

"As an osteopathic family physician in a region where seniors flock to retirement, 40 percent of my patients are covered by Medicare," said James J. Dearing, D.O., of Phoenix, Ariz. "Resigning as a provider for Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans in order to ensure the viability of my practice-which includes paying my staff and keeping my equipment functioning and up to date-will have a devastating impact on this region, but I am left with few, if any other options."

To hear more about Dr. Dearing's difficult decision to opt out of Medicare, click 'Listen to Audio' on the right.

As the Senate reconvenes this week, they will once again consider H.R. 6331. The AOA urges all individuals to contact their senators and encourage them to vote YES on the "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act" (H.R. 6331) and preserve patient access to physicians under Medicare.

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 61,000 osteopathic physicians (D.O.s); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for D.O.s; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical colleges; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on D.O.s/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.