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AARP Letter Urges House to Protect Older Americans’ Access to Doctors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 20, 2010

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AARP Media Relations, media@aarp.org

AARP Letter Urges House to Protect Older Americans’ Access to Doctors

WASHINGTON—AARP CEO A. Barry Rand today sent a letter to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In his letter, Rand urged Representatives to support the American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes and Preventing Outsourcing Act (H.R. 4213).  This legislation offers a multi-year solution to the looming Medicare physician payment cut that threatens access to doctors for millions of seniors.

“AARP is pleased that this legislation provides a stable source of funding through 2013 for the physicians who treat Medicare patients, and, importantly, begins to direct additional resources toward primary care providers.” Rand wrote in the letter.  “Going forward, we are committed to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to repeal the SGR, and to establish a permanent physician payment system that ends the uncertainty for patients and providers alike.”

The bill provides millions of Americans in Medicare with the security—at least for the next four years—that they will have access to their doctors, while providing Congress with a firm deadline to create a permanent solution.  The legislation also provides extensions to critical programs, including subsidized COBRA health coverage to Americans who have lost their jobs, extended unemployment insurance and additional help to states to pay for Medicaid programs.

In his letter, Rand noted that the House’s vote on the bill will be an “AARP Key Vote.”  The Association will be tracking how Representatives vote and reporting the results back to its members and all Americans.  The complete text of his letter follows:

Dear Representative:

On behalf of millions of AARP’s members we urge you to support “The American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes and Preventing Outsourcing Act” (H.R. 4213).  Enacting this legislation will help to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to their physicians, and will provide much-needed help to states and the unemployed.

Absent Congressional action, on June 1st physicians who treat Medicare patients will receive a 21 percent reduction in their reimbursement.  We are concerned that these cuts could have a dramatic impact on beneficiaries’ access to physicians – particularly in rural areas.  Some of our members have already experienced difficulty in finding a physician who will accept Medicare patients – a problem which can be more common for those newly eligible for Medicare.  For nearly a decade, Congress has used short-term patches to prevent imminent cuts to how doctors who treat Medicare patients are paid – an approach that has created a great deal of anxiety among Medicare patients and the health providers who serve them.  People in Medicare deserve the peace of mind of knowing they can find a doctor when they need one. 

AARP is pleased that this legislation provides a stable source of funding through 2013 for the physicians who treat Medicare patients, and, importantly, begins to direct additional resources toward primary care providers.  While we recognize this is not a permanent solution, our members – and the physicians who treat them – cannot continue to be held hostage by short-term band-aid patches to an unworkable Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.  Going forward, we are committed to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to repeal the SGR, and to establish a permanent physician payment system that ends the uncertainty for patients and providers alike.

In addition, this legislation provides urgently needed aid so that states can continue providing health care to the large number of people who, due to the economic crisis, have needed to rely on Medicaid.  Extending the enhanced federal funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for another six months will protect health benefits for low-income older Americans, and is a proven tool to promote further job-creation. 

It also extends unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits that are especially important for older Americans, who tend to remain unemployed for longer periods of time than younger workers.  Finally, we also support funding relief for defined benefit plans and fee disclosure provisions for defined contribution plans.

Because AARP members have a strong interest in how their elected officials vote on key issues, we will be informing them about how their Representatives vote on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Addison Barry Rand

AARP members and all Americans can see how their representatives voted on the bill by going to www.aarp.org/governmentwatch.  AARP’s Government Watch is a one-stop online portal that will be tracking and publicizing every designated key vote on issues facing Americans age 50-plus.   A “Key Vote Summary” highlighting votes on these issues will be published at the end of each congressional session.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.7 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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