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Dramatic Growth Projected in Visits by Elderly Patients to Emergency Departments Underscores Urgency of Medicare Physician Payment Fix

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Increasing Rates of Emergency Department Visits for Elderly Patients in the United States, 1993 to 2003") finds the rate of elderly Americans seeking emergency care is increasing far faster than any other group.

Kenneth L. Noller, MD, President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, released the following statement about the study on behalf of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine.

"While 1 in 8 Americans were elderly in 1994, 1 in 5 will be elderly by 2030, with females 85 years old and older the fastest growing segment. Elderly patients tend to be sicker and have more chronic health problems than other patients.

"Ob-gyns care for women at all stages of life. The leading causes of death among elderly women are heart disease and cancer, and elderly women also suffer more than younger patients from adverse events to drug therapies, often related to poor medication adherence. These and other care needs require the careful ongoing attention of specialists.

"As our population ages and more elderly need emergency medical treatment, emergency departments struggle even more to care for everyone. The federal government has neglected its responsibility to ensure that Medicare, the primary source of health care coverage for the nation's elderly and disabled, adequately pays for needed physician care.

"In fact, a deeply flawed Medicare physician payment system threatens every American's access to lifesaving specialty care. And the problem will only get worse. Unless Congress acts immediately, a 10.1 percent cut in Medicare physician payments will go into effect on January 1, 2008 - with additional cuts slashing rates by 40 percent over the next decade. These cuts affect the elderly, as well as military families covered under TRICARE, which follows Medicare payment rates, and all Americans as private insurers often follow Medicare's lead in payment rates.

Congress must enact a long-term solution that ends the Medicare physician payment cuts and puts in place a two-year, fully funded increase. We look forward to working with Congress over the next two years designing a comprehensive solution to the flawed Medicare system."

The Alliance of Specialty Medicine is the largest physician organization in the country, comprised of 11 national medical specialty societies representing more than 200,000 practicing physicians and the millions of patients they serve each day. The Alliance is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the enactment of sound federal policy that ensures patient access to the highest quality specialty care.

SOURCE The Alliance of Specialty Medicine
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