Today 47 million seniors depend on Medicare to ensure they have access to doctors they know and trust, to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, seniors' access to doctors has been continually put at risk because Congress has failed to reform a flawed Medicare payment system implemented in 1998.
This year the system threatened Medicare doctors with a pay cut of nearly 27 percent. Fortunately, the recent "fiscal cliff" agreement stops the cut from going into effect this year (a remedy known as the "doc fix").
But unless Washington finds a permanent solution, Medicare doctors could face an even bigger cut next year. That's why AARP is urging Congress and President Obama to find a permanent, bipartisan solution to prevent seniors from losing access to their doctors.
For over a decade, when doctors have faced these cuts, Congress has put a Band-Aid on the problem but left the same broken payment system in place.
These temporary fixes not only have undermined seniors' access to their doctors but also have driven up the cost of a long-term solution that will ensure seniors can keep access to their doctors and get better value for their health care dollar.
This cycle of threats to seniors' health care has gone on far too long. After contributing to Medicare through a lifetime of hard work, Americans shouldn't have to worry about being turned away by the doctors they know and trust. Washington must permanently replace this system and create a fiscally responsible, stable payment system that ensures affordable, quality care for seniors. This is especially important given that the typical Medicare beneficiary has an annual income of roughly $20,000 and spends nearly 20 percent of that on health care. The solution should focus on reducing overall health care costs and not merely shifting the cost to beneficiaries.
On behalf of our 37 million members and all Americans who have earned their Medicare benefits, AARP will continue working to foster an open, thoughtful public conversation about how best to strengthen Medicare for today's seniors and for future generations.