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ACP implores President Bush to sign Medicare bill today to avert cut scheduled for Tuesday

Washington "Today President Bush MUST join with the large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress who have listened to concerned patients and doctors by approving H.R. 6331, and sign this bill into law todaythe final day left until Medicare is expected to begin processing claims with devastating cuts in payment for physician services," Jeffrey P. Harris, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP) emphasized today.

"Presidential action is absolutely critical today because starting tomorrow -- July 15 -- Medicare is required to pay physicians for services provided since the first of this month," Dr. Harris explained. "Medicare will also cut payments for those same services by 10.6 percent, which would be devastating to virtually every practice in America. Dr. Harris explained that earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructed its contractors to put a "hold" on paying physicians' claims until July 15. Once this hold expires on Tuesday, contractors presumably will have no choice but to process the claims with the 10.6 percrent cut required by current lawunless, that is, President Bush immediately signs H.R. 6331 into law. H.R. 6331 will halt the 10.6 percent cut, retroactive to July 1; provide a positive update in 2009 instead of another scheduled 5.4 percent cut; and make improvements in coverage and payment policies for prevention and primary care.

"ACP's 126,000-member internists are caught in limbo. Either Medicare will cut doctor payments by 10.6 percent starting on Tuesday, or Medicare will extend the hold of our claims and in the meantime pay us nothing at all for care internists have already delivered, creating big cash flow problems for practices," Dr. Harris noted.

"Last week, the Senate gave overwhelming, bipartisan approval to legislation to avert cuts in Medicare physician payment updates. The votes in both the Senate and House in favor of H.R. 6331 are more than enough to override a presidential veto, but we hope that it doesn't come to that." Dr. Harris expressed concern that if H.R. 6331 is vetoed later this week by the President, an override vote, even if successful, may not take place in time to stop the disruption in claims that will occur after the hold on processing claims is lifted on July 15.

"We ask every United States Senator and member of the House of Representatives, even those who initially voted against H.R 6331, to tell the President today that signing H.R. 6331 into law today is the only way to stop the devastating cuts from going into effect later this week. And to go on record and tell him that they have made an unequivocal commitment to patients and doctors to vote for an override, so there is no illusion in the White House that the President has the votes to sustain a veto."

"Also once H.R. 6331 becomes law, Congress will be able to redirect its attention from just 'stopping the cut' to enacting comprehensive reforms to correct a broken physician payment system," Dr. Harris said. "We look forward to working with Congress and the President on the changes that are needed to once again make internal medicine and primary care the top choices of our best and brightest young people, and to sustain the committed internists who are struggling to keep their practices open when Medicare doesn't even cover their overhead."


Contact: David Kinsman
American College of Physicians

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