The American Geriatrics Society applauds the U.S. Senate for its veto-proof 69 to 30 vote on Wednesday in favor of legislation rescinding a 10.6% cut in payments to physicians who treat Medicare patients -- a cut that would threaten older Americans' access to healthcare.

The Society also applauds the House of Representatives for its 355 to 59 vote in favor of the bill late last month.

Mandated by a controversial Medicare payment formula that triggers reductions in Medicare payments to physicians whenever growth in Medicare outlays exceeds growth in gross domestic product, the 10.6% cut was slated to take effect July 1. The administration, however, agreed last week to delay the processing of Medicare claims for 10 days.

In an American Medical Association survey, 60% of physicians had indicated that the cuts would make caring for Medicare beneficiaries so financially untenable that they would be forced to limit the number of new Medicare patients they saw if the cuts took effect.

On June 26, the Senate was able to muster just 59 of the 60 votes needed to pass the Medicare legislation with a margin wide enough to overcome Republican objections. Many GOP members had balked at provisions in the bill that call for offsetting the costs of the measure by cutting payments to private Medicare Advantage plans. The overwhelming, bipartisan June 24 House vote in favor, however, encouraged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to continue pressing for approval.

AGS thanks Sens. Reid, and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) -- who returned to the Senate yesterday for the first time since undergoing treatment for cancer in early June -- to cast the needed 60th vote for the legislation. The Society also thanks Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) who played a key role in drafting the measure, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John D. Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), who sponsored the legislation. AGS extends its thanks to House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CT), and the Democratic leadership in both the Senate and House for their support for the bill. In addition, the Society thanks Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a longtime advocate for older Americans and the nine other Republican Senators who voted for the measure both on June 26 and yesterday.

"As the Institute of Medicine warns in its recent report, "Retooling for an Aging America," the nation's healthcare workforce is too small and unprepared to care for the growing number of older Americans," said AGS President John B. Murphy, MD, professor of medicine and family medicine at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School and Chief Physician Officer at Rhode Island Hospital. "Further cuts in payments to physicians caring for Medicare beneficiaries would only exacerbate what is already a significant shortfall in healthcare professionals trained and able to care for this, most vulnerable, segment of our population. We applaud the many legislators who came together to support legislation averting this cut."

About The AGS

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society is a nationwide, not-for-profit association of geriatrics health care professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of all older people. The Society supports this mission through activities in clinical practice, professional and public education, research, and public policy. With an active membership of over 6,700 health care professionals, the Society has become a pivotal force in shaping attitudes, policies, and practices in geriatric medicine.

American Geriatrics Society

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