Doctors: Senators 'took a vacation,' left Medicare a mess

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The American Medical Association is launching an ad campaign pushing lawmakers to freeze a 21% cut to the fees doctors receive to treat Medicare patients.

The House voted May 28 to delay the cuts for 19 months, but the Senate did not take action before the Memorial Day recess.

The AMA's TV, radio and print ads slam senators for failing to pass the "doc fix" before taking their week-long break. The group has a long history of pushing to reform the formula used to calculate Medicare payments to doctors.

The ads feature a lot of air travel imagery, implying that lawmakers are jetting off to luxe locales while their constituents suffer. More than 43 million Americans are covered under Medicare.

"With access to health care for seniors ... hanging in the balance, what did the U.S. Senate do? They took a vacation," the ads say, urging Americans to call their senators and tell them to "get back to work."

The cuts were slated to take effect June 1, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services instructed its contractors to delay processing claims for 10 business days.

CMS implemented the delay in the hope that Congress will vote to freeze the Medicare reimbursement cuts retroactively, as it has done before.

"[Lawmakers] need to understand that the decisions made in Washington impact real people," said James Rohack, AMA president, in a conference call.

Doctors consider opting out of Medicare: Rohack went on to condemn the current payment rate formula, which federal law established in 1997 and says rates should be cut every year to keep Medicare in the black. But Congress has blocked those cuts in seven of the last eight years.

"Medicare payments are stuck where they were in 2001, while medical costs are up by 20% according to the government's own data," Rohack said.

And 60% of Medicare physicians are considering opting out of the program in order to stay afloat, Rohack added.

The AMA wants the reimbursement formula to be overhauled as the baby boomers start to age into the Medicare system. Developing a new plan would now cost $212 billion, but that figure has quadrupled over the past five years. An overhaul in 2005 would have cost $49 billion, and that price tag will continue to grow exponentially as the issue gets kicked down the road.

"This Congress needs to do what past Congresses wouldn't," Rohack said. "Look at the issue and fix this broken foundation once and for all." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,804.71 -238.19 -1.40%
Nasdaq 4,422.09 -71.30 -1.59%
S&P 500 1,946.16 -26.13 -1.32%
Treasuries 2.40 -0.10 -4.19%
Data as of 8:42pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.82 -0.23 -1.35%
Ford Motor Co 14.59 -0.18 -1.22%
Facebook Inc 76.55 -2.49 -3.15%
Apple Inc 99.18 -1.57 -1.56%
Cisco Systems Inc 25.03 -0.08 -0.34%
Data as of 4:03pm ET

Sections

In the last five years, pumpkin sales have risen 34% as people demand pumpkin in everything from beer to beef jerky. More

Facebook's chief product officer issued an apology to Sister Roma and the drag community on Wednesday for its flawed 'real name' policy. More

New York City launches a comprehensive site for all things related to its digital tech scene, Digital.NYC. More

For these seniors, the best retirement is not to retire. From a 102-year-old Wal-Mart worker to an activist park ranger, these workers have stayed on the job well into their golden years. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.