Lame Duck Dominates Holidays for Older Idahoans as Doc Access Hangs in the Balance

Inaction in Coming Weeks Means 25% Pay Cut for ID Docs in Medicare, Driving Many out of the Program - AARP Presses for Fix

BOISE, Idaho, Nov. 23, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Turkey may be on the table of Idaho families this Thanksgiving, but it'll be Congress' "lame duck" session that's on the minds of many of the roughly 230,000 Idahoans on Medicare (15% of the state population). Without Congressional action during the "lame duck" session, doctors in Idaho and across the nation will get a 25% pay cut under Medicare, forcing many out of the program, leaving older patients with no place to turn for needed medical care.

AARP is calling on Idaho's Members of Congress to address the issue and is launching an aggressive statewide campaign to help ensure the cuts don't go into effect.    

Last week the Senate voted to delay the cuts, which are set to hit December 1st, by one month – it's anticipated the House will echo the move after Thanksgiving.  If the House does not act, the cuts will go into effect, if they do pass a one month fix, the cuts won't go into effect until Jan 1st.  AARP is urging the House to pass the one month patch fix, and for Congress to then pass a one year fix for 2011, while a permanent solution can be addressed.  

"Having more of Idaho's already limited pool of doctors leave Medicare would be devastating to older patients, who every year around this time live in fear of the possibility of not being able to see their doctor," said Jim Wordelman, State Director of AARP in Idaho.  "Congress must address this issue, so doctors are not driven out of Medicare and Idaho's elderly are left with no options for health care."  

The issue hits particularly hard in Idaho as the state already has one of the lowest physician-to-patient ratios in the nation (ranking 49th), with 176 doctors per 100,000 population and 13 doctors per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.  Nearly half of Idaho's doctors are 50 or older, a point at which many start taking a reduced number of patients – leaving fewer doctors to tackle the needs of the state's growing elderly population.  

"AARP is urging Idaho's Members of Congress to fix this issue for at least the next year, during which we can all work towards a permanent solution," added Wordelman. 

The reason for the looming pay cut – a flawed Medicare physician payment formula which Congress has been forced to address every year for the last 8 years.  Over the next year, AARP will work with Members of Congress to permanently address the issue.

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with 180,000 members.

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