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Will unexpended war funds provide any solace to physicians from pay cut?

Medicare pay will drop effective March 1, 2012, unless Congress finds a longer-term solution for this. The American Medical Association (AMA) along with 108 other state and specialty medical societies have asked Congress to reallocate the war money that will not be required as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is drawing down now. This projected spending can help pay for access to health care for military and seniors.

Background: Congress’ intervention temporarily delayed the 27 per cent Medicare pay cuts until March 1, 2012. Congress has been trying to find a permanent SGR (sustainable growth rate) fix to curb the pay cut.

Situation now: In its letter dated Jan. 23, AMA has appealed to the congressional conference committee to fix the Medicare pay using the overseas contingency operations funds.

“There is bipartisan agreement that this issue has plagued Medicare and TRICARE for too long, and the cost for a permanent cure will never be less than it is right now,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, M.D. “Using funds that will not be needed as the wars wind down to protect health care for men and women in uniform and our nation’s seniors is the fiscally responsible thing to do. By eliminating this failed formula once and for all, Congress can stop growing the size of the problem for patients, physicians and taxpayers. With a 27 percent cut scheduled on March 1, the time for permanent action is now.”

The Congress has until now been temporarily patching up, but this has significantly increased the cost to taxpayers over the past years. “There have been 13 short-term patches passed by Congress. These patches increase both the long-term cost to taxpayers and the severity of scheduled cuts to physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients,” said Dr. Carmel. “Using funds that will not be needed as the wars wind down to eliminate the formula stops this cycle, protects access to care for patients and saves money for taxpayers.”

Visit http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/washington/medicare-sgr-sign-on-letter-23jan2012.pdf to read a copy of the AMA letter.