On July 1, 2008, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by more than 10 percent, leaving Medicare patients in Louisiana with fewer options and less funding for essential health care services. With an additional 5 percent cut scheduled for January 2009, a total of $180 million will be lost for Louisiana senior citizens and people with disabilities who rely on the Medicare program for their health care needs. In Louisiana, more than 760,000 patients and government employees will be affected unless Congress acts to prevent a crisis.
Louisiana’s ratio of physicians to Medicare beneficiaries already is below the national average, even before the cuts. Over the next 18 months, these cuts will have a dramatic effect on access to care, just as millions of baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare. Physicians will be forced to make difficult decisions in order to absorb these significant payment reductions, perhaps limiting the number of Medicare patients served. Current Medicare physician payment rates are, on average, the same as they were in 2001 due to practice costs rising more than 20 percent in the past seven years.
Federal legislation to stop the payment cuts is the only way to avert an impending crisis. Concerned citizens must send a clear message to Congress that the security of health care for our seniors cannot be eroded. Almost every family in Louisiana has a loved one depending on Medicare for their essential health care needs. If these cuts are implemented, the resulting access to care crisis will impact all of us.
The clear message: Stop the Medicare cuts.