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Extending the 'Doc Fix'

To assist in the recent push to extend the “doc fix,” AARP Georgia joined with patients and doctors on Dec. 8 to urge Congress to find a year-long solution for Medicare payments for doctors as a first step in developing a permanent and sustainable solution for an essential health care program for older Americans.

“It’s difficult to imagine how it feels to lose the care as well as the feeling of security that comes from a solid doctor-patient relationship until it happens to you,” said Barry Reid, an AARP Georgia Executive Council member who lost his doctor two years ago. “In his letter to his Medicare patients, my doctor explained that in a small practice he would be losing money to treat us. When you receive a letter like this, you feel like a second-class medical care recipient.”

At a news event, doctors and patients chronicled their difficulties in dealing with the flawed system. For several years, physicians have faced imminent reductions – up to 25 percent -- in their Medicare payments under an antiquated formula.

“The bottom line is that physicians are being forced to opt out of the Medicare program as a practical economic matter, which means that some of our most needy patients will struggle to find a doctor in their hour of need,” said Sandra B. Reed, M.D., the president-elect of the Medical Association of Georgia, at the event. “Having kicked the can down the road for 10 years now, it’s time for Congressional leaders to develop a sustainable solution for the Medicare program to ensure that the government fulfills the promise that it made to American seniors when it introduced the program in 1964.”

The event featured speakers from the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians; AARP Georgia; the Medical Association of Georgia; American College of Physicians Georgia Chapter; and the Georgia ObGyn Society, doctors and patients gathered at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta urged Congress to provide a long-term solution to Medicare payment issues.

On Dec. 16, President Obama signed into law an extension of the current payment formula for one year.

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