Marin Medical Society

MMS News Briefs


November 2010

Take Action Now to Prevent Medicare Cuts

By MMS President Peter Bretan, MD


You need to know that the looming Medicare disaster can possibly be averted, but not without an unprecedented response by you and your patients. Physicians who participate in Medicare are facing a 25% cut in reimbursements by January 2011 if Congress does not vote for a patch fix on Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula during its November lame-duck session, which begins Nov. 15. Unless Congress acts, a 23% cut will take effect on Dec. 1, and another 2.5% cut on Jan. 1.


I urge you to let Congress and your patients know that these cuts will be a disaster. Just call 800-833-6354 and enter your zip code to be connected to Representative Lynn Woolsey and senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. You can also ask your Medicare patients to contact Congress. Visit for a letter that you can send to patients urging them to act.


While Congress has no problem bailing out GM, Wall Street, banks and other financial entities, they seem to be unsympathetic to physicians. Forget the fact that our overhead is higher that most small businesses, that the inflation rate for medical technology is four or five times higher than the rest of the economy, that our government imposes unfunded mandates on physician practices year after year, that most of the country does not have tort reform as we have here in California, that the HMO system has pitted proceduralist against non-proceduralist in a zero-sum game, that the bar on the corporate practice of medicine is eroding, that physician retirees are not being replaced.


Doctors have not been given an increase in our Medicare fees to compensate for inflation in the past 10 years, and thus the proposed cuts go much deeper than 25%. Congress has continuously patched Medicare reimbursements by using money from other sources, but it has degenerated into an unsustainable avoidance behavior that keeps us from solving the core problem: the SGR formula.


Just last summer we had a temporary 21% cut that wasn’t resolved for three weeks, leaving us with mountains of paperwork needed to apply for retroactive pay. This time, even if the lame-duck Congress votes for another SGR patch, the reimbursements may take up to three months to correct. Can you float your practice for the next three months with a 25% cut without laying off personnel or not taking new Medicare patients? These proposed cuts threaten access to care.


Again, the time to act is now. Contact Congress and let them know what kind of impact a 25% Medicare cut will have on your practice.




The Marin Medical Society, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association, supports local physicians and their efforts to enhance the health of the community. We are affiliated with the California Medical Association and the American Medical Association.


© MMS 2010
PO Box 246
Corte Madera, CA 94976