SOURCE: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

December 04, 2007 10:45 ET

The AACE Warns Impending Medicare Cuts Will Jeopardize Access to Critical Endocrine Care

JACKSONVILLE, FL--(Marketwire - December 4, 2007) - Unless Congress acts, on January 1, 2008, the Medicare physician payment schedule will be cut by 10% under the current Medicare formula used to determine annual payment updates. Physician payments have been "frozen" for the past two years. This is devastating news to America's senior citizens. The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that the payment formula has kept 2007 physician payment rates the same as they were in 2001, while practice costs have continued to increase annually. According to the AMA, 60 percent of physicians say this cut will force them to reduce or eliminate the number of Medicare patients they treat. That's why the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) is calling for Congress to take immediate action to stop these cuts from taking effect.

The cuts resulting from the payment formula are especially devastating to endocrinologists' patients who have chronic disease, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders. These conditions, when left untreated, often result in costly and life threatening complications and hospitalizations.

"The impending reductions in the physician payment schedule will make it impossible for endocrinologists to provide patients with serious endocrine disorders such as diabetes with the level of care they need and deserve," said Richard Hellman, MD, FACP, FACE, President of AACE. "The decision to tie physician reimbursements arbitrarily to an arcane and flawed formula based on the Gross Domestic Product is crippling our healthcare system."

Ironically, AACE has been a leader in the government's efforts to improve quality and safety measures under the Medicare program. Dr. Hellman also serves on the board of the AMA Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement. With that group, AACE continues to be involved in the development of quality measures, including those related to diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis. CMS is using some of these measures in its Medicare Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI).

"What we're facing is a tug-of-war," said Hellman. "On one end of the rope, we are working closely with CMS to develop systems to ensure the highest quality care for all Americans. On the other end, we are being told we have to take a 10 percent cut in reimbursements, which will lead to the breakdown of the healthcare infrastructure. In the middle, the patients are feeling the strain."

AACE has joined with the AMA in urging Congress to act now by blocking the payment cuts and providing positive updates for the next two years while a permanent solution to this problem is developed. AACE encourages patients and their doctors to call their Congressional Representatives and Senators asking them to stop the cuts to the physician payment schedule on January 1, 2008, and to repeal the flawed Medicare payment formula.

About AACE

AACE is a professional medical organization with nearly 6,000 members in the United States and 85 other countries. Founded in 1991, AACE is dedicated to the optimal care of patients with endocrine problems. AACE Clinical Endocrinologists advanced, specialized training enable them to be experts in the care of endocrine disease, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis, cholesterol disorders, hypertension and obesity. For further information about AACE visit www.aace.com.

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