Urge Congress to take action now to protect patient access to care

August 22, 2023

The California Medical Association (CMA) is urging all physicians to contact their Congressional representatives and urge them to cosponsor the “Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Physicians Act of 2023” (H.R. 2474), a bipartisan bill that provides an automatic annual inflation update based on the Medicare Economic Index (MEI) – a reasonable market basket of physician practice costs.

Medicare physician payments have failed to keep pace with the costs of providing care. Since 2001, Medicare physician payments fell 26% (when adjusted for inflation), while practice costs rose 47%. Physicians also took a 2% payment cut last year and are facing up to 4% cuts in 2024, in stark contrast to the annual inflation increases given to hospitals and other providers.

California physicians are sounding the alarm – access to care in Medicare is deteriorating. CMA is extremely concerned that the Medicare physician payment system is causing instability in physician practices that is leading to burnout, exacerbating physician shortages and, ultimately, threatening patient access to care.

Physicians want to care for their communities, but without a Medicare payment update to keep pace with California’s higher costs, it is more difficult for physicians to maintain viable medical practices. The tide of sicker patients, an inability to keep essential nursing staff, an average of $200,000 in medical debt, and fewer Medicare resources are causing burnout, early retirement, and consolidation, which is actually driving up health care costs.

The recent Medicare Trustees Report said lawmakers should “expect access to Medicare-participating physicians to become a significant issue in the long term.” Timely access to care for patients has become more challenging, particularly in rural or traditionally underserved and marginalized patient communities. Patients are experiencing long wait times in California’s emergency departments, delays in getting appointments and receiving physician care.

CMA is strongly supporting H.R. 2474, which would stabilize physician practices, reduce consolidation and protect access to care for patients.

Physicians can contact their Members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor HR 2474 through the American Medical Association (AMA) grassroots portal. Please share your physician shortage stories with your Congressional representatives. As stewards of the Medicare program, Congress must ensure seniors have access to the physicians they need when they need them.

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