On Monday, January 23, 2012, the California Medical Association (CMA) and other health care organizations called on the Congressional Conference Committee working to craft an agreement on the 2012 tax bill between the House and the Senate to permanently stop the scheduled cuts and short-term patches to the Medicare fee-for-service program by eliminating the sustainable growth rate (SRG) formula. Two strong physician advocates from California were named to the conference committee – Congressman Henry Waxman (D-LA), the ranking minority member on the House Energy Commerce Committee, and Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-LA), the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Along with the American Medical Association (AMA), CMA sent a letter to the Congressional Conference Committee currently addressing this issue. In addition to asking for an end to the SGR, the letter asks Congress to use projected spending that will not be needed as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down to help pay for ensuring access to health care for military families and seniors on Medicare. With the early troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are hundreds of billions in savings in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. Last week, House Democratic leaders, including Congressmen Waxman and Becerra, joined a growing group of Republican and Democratic Senators in supporting the use of OCO funds to repeal the SGR.
With a 27 percent cut scheduled to take effect March 1, 2012, the letter also asks the committee to act now before the cost to taxpayers grows. As recently as 2005, the cost of permanent repeal would have been $48 billion. Today the cost is estimated to be nearly $300 billion. The cost is expected to double again in the next five years.
Poll results show that an overwhelming number of Americans, 94 percent, believe a massive Medicare cut, like the one scheduled for March 1, is a serious problem for seniors. Congress’s own Medicare advisory committee has said that one in four seniors seeking a new primary care physician in Medicare has had trouble finding one.
The American Association of Retired People (AARP) just launched a new Medicare SGR campaign urging seniors to call and write their Members of Congress. The AARP alert says that “Medicare patients could lose access to the doctors they know and trust in just a few weeks.” CMA is doing a targeted key contact to Congressional leadership.
In repealing the SGR, Congress will be able to bring stability to programs that are necessary to some of the most vulnerable of our patients. CMA continues to urge physicians to call California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and ask them to protect access to care in California by using OCO funds to repeal the Medicare SGR. Let them know that that SGR cuts must be stopped before the March 1 deadline. Using the AMA Grassroots Hotline at (800) 833 635, plug in your ZIP code and you will automatically be connected to your Senator.
Contact: Elizabeth McNeil, (415) 310-2877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.