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Maria’s Monday Memo

Senator Maria Cantwell’s Weekly Update for Washington State
Monday, August 15, 2005

Sparing doctors from risky Medicare cuts

Earlier this month I met in Spokane with physicians, local seniors advocates, and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce to discuss a major problem facing Washington state healthcare providers: dropping Medicare reimbursement rates. If this problem isn’t solved, Washington state doctors could lose $1.9 billion between 2006 and 2014, forcing many of them to stop accepting Medicare patients.

Our seniors (added by me: "and disabled") are already having a hard time finding physicians who accept Medicare because the government pays doctors far too little for senior healthcare. The problem is especially worrisome now, as a 4.3 percent cut to Medicare reimbursement rates is due to kick in on January 1 of next year. And this is just the beginning: government officials estimate that by 2011, the rates will be cut by 26 percent.

We must make sure that our doctors can stay in the business of healthcare, not economics. It is critical that physicians can practice medicine and that our seniors can afford to see the doctors they know and trust.

That is why I introduced legislation to block these cuts and make sure doctors get a modest increase next year. Congress and the President must find a long-term solution to the reimbursement rate problems, but we should not place the short-term burden on our doctors and seniors. I’ll keep you updated as my legislation is considered by the Senate.

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