NY Medical Society Calls for Resolution of Deep Medicare Cuts

Statement by Robert Hughes, MD, MSSNY President

WESTBURY, NY (12/20/2012)(readMedia)-- "Once again Congress and the President are threatening seniors' access to needed care, as well as many jobs in physicians' offices across New York State, by failing to take action to prevent staggering cuts in Medicare physician payment. Physicians will face a nearly 27% cut in their Medicare payments if Congress fails to take action to prevent these cuts by December 31, as well as further cuts due to the "sequestration" provisions as part of the "fiscal cliff".

Members of Congress and President Obama have known all year that this deadline is coming, yet here we are on December 19 facing a real possibility that partisan divides will prevent them from doing the right thing. While we appreciate that each side has put forward proposals to prevent these cuts, there are reports that agreement may not be reached before the new year.

Failure to act would be unconscionable.

Physicians cannot continue to provide care to seniors with this volatility. While Congress has passed several measures in recent years to prevent the imposition of similar scheduled cuts, the short-term fixes and recent tendency of Congress to retroactively fix the cuts after permitting them to go into effect has left many physicians concerned and doubtful whether their offices can sustain continued participation in the Medicare program.

These cuts are driven by a flawed formula called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) which penalizes physicians by lowering their payments when growth in the use of medical care exceeds the Gross Domestic Product. This is done despite the fact that service use is driven by factors outside physician control such as patient health needs, emerging technology and public policy changes. When factoring in cuts to the Medicare conversion factor in 2002 along with some very minor increases in the conversion factor since then, Medicare payments are, on average, level with what they were 10 years ago. In fact, many physicians have experienced significant cuts. Yet, at the same time, liability insurance costs and other overhead costs for physicians have risen rapidly in New York while reimbursement from health insurers has been constrained.

Failure to act could also have effects on New York's economy. The private practice of medicine provides an extraordinary contribution to New York State's economy as a whole, as well as to every community across the State. According to a recent study, the private practice of medicine by physicians ranks 2nd in total business establishments in New York State, and 6th in total employment. The survey also showed that private practicing physicians employed 330,594 persons across New York in 2008, and generated over $9 billion in combined state and local taxes in 2008.

The President and Congress must act at once to end the unsustainable SGR formula that threatens these cuts every year, and act to preserve seniors' access to care as well as jobs across the State of New York."

Founded in 1807, the Medical Society of the State of New York is the state's principal non-profit professional organization for physicians, residents and medical students of all specialties. Its mission is to represent the interests of patients and physicians to assure quality healthcare services for all.