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AOA urges action to prevent huge Medicare physician pay cuts

December 15, 2012

Newly elected U.S. Senators and House members don’t take office until January when the 113th Congress will be officially sworn in. However, the outgoing 112th Congress has a lot of unfinished business and is meeting in the nation’s capital to address a host of policy concerns during Congress’ post-election “lame-duck” session.

Over the next few weeks, negotiations on Capitol Hill will likely focus on possible solutions to the so-called “fiscal cliff” – a critical mass of approaching policies consisting of trillions of dollars of expiring tax breaks and “across-the-board” spending cuts, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says, if taken together, could throw the U.S. economy back into recession.

While focused on having a major impact on the 2012 general election, the AOA Washington office team and AOA Federal Keypersons have also used the last few months to warn policymakers of the consequences of impending Medicare pay cuts.

The AOA is now urging Congress and the president to take the action needed to avert potentially disastrous cuts before they take effect early next year.

Unless Congress approves corrective legislation, payments to ODs and other doctors for treating Medicare patients will be cut by roughly 27 percent on Jan. 1, 2013, as a result of Medicare’s flawed SGR payment formula and an additional 2 percent on Jan. 2, 2013, as a result of the “across-the-board” sequester cuts mandated by debt reduction legislation approved late last year.

Right now, the AOA is helping to lead a broad coalition of national physician and patient organizations in supporting – at a minimum – a short-term SGR physician payment patch until real reform can be agreed on in the nation’s capital.

At the same time, the AOA and others are pushing back against mandatory sequester cuts by reminding lawmakers that ODs and other key providers are part of the solution rather than the overall fiscal problem.

Echoing remarks made by AOA President Ron Hopping, O.D., MPH, during an invite-only meeting of physician groups at the White House earlier this year, the AOA continues to make clear to policymakers that optometrists, as first-contact providers of primary eye and vision care, can and do serve as both a critical access point to care and as a key player in helping to reduce overall system costs by, among other things, preventing the need for costly surgeries.

The AOA will continue to press lawmakers to prevent impending Medicare pay cuts and AOA doctors and students are urged to join the fight.

AOA members can take action now by using the AOA’s Online Legislative Action Center (http://bit.ly/X44SEB) to contact their U.S. Senate and House of Representatives members to urge them to avert immediate Medicare pay cuts and to take steps now to preserve the program for future Medicare beneficiaries.

The AOA will provide regular updates on the Medicare physician payment crisis as Congress’s lame-duck session continues.

If you have any questions or need further information, contact the AOA Washington office at ImpactWashingtonDC@aoa.org or 800-365-2219.

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