Next year's proposed 10 percent cut in Medicare payments is serving as a rallying point for members of the American Medical Association, which says the cuts will make it difficult for physicians to accept new Medicare patients.

"The baby boomers begin entering the program in 2010, and the Medicare cuts increase the likelihood that there may not be enough doctors to care for the influx of new Medicare patients," says AMA Board Chairman Cecil B. Wilson, MD. Over the next nine years, the cuts total about 40 percent, while the government estimates that the cost of caring for patients will increase 20 percent, according to the AMA.

A new survey of 8,955 physicians commissioned by the AMA paints a bleak picture for Medicare. The survey says as much as 60 percent of doctors "will be forced to limit the number of new Medicare patients they will be able to care for next year," says Wilson. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended that Congress stop next year's 10 percent cut and increase payments 1.7 percent, which would be in line with practice cost increases.

Mohit Ghose, speaking for America's Health Insurance Plans, says the group's members tend to contract with physician groups and hospitals on a case-by-case basis, "so I wouldn't connect any possible cut in [government] payments to how commercial plans pay."

Source: American Medical Association

Graphic by Julie Ridge

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