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Pennsylvania Medical Society and AARP Criticize Senator Specter for Blocking Bill to Protect Access to Doctors and Improve Medicare

Groups Call on Senator Specter to Reconsider and Support Bill that Stops Cuts to Doctors and Keeps Medicare Fair

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gridlock has paralyzed the U.S. Senate, derailing a critical bipartisan bill that would have stopped a 10 percent cut to doctors who treat Medicare patients, kept Medicare premiums fair, and made significant improvements to a program that 44 million Americans depend on.

Last week, Senator Arlen Specter joined a minority of Senators in voting to block legislation that would have helped people on Medicare maintain access to their doctors, keep premiums fair and improve benefits for the most vulnerable while boosting health care quality through national e-prescribing. The Senate vote on the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (H.R. 6331), which passed by a bipartisan landslide in the House of Representatives, was purposely scheduled for June 26 so it would become law before the cuts to doctor payments were to go into effect on July 1.

"We are deeply troubled that Senator Specter voted to block a bill with bipartisan support that would have preserved patients' access to their doctors and improved Medicare for the 44 million Americans who depend on it," said Estella Hyde, AARP Pennsylvania State President. "For the sake of older Americans, people with disabilities and military families, we urge Senator Specter to listen to his constituents and reconsider his vote when the bill comes up again after the congressional recess."

In addition to preventing a 10 percent cut to payments to doctors, the Medicare bill would have: helped keep premiums fair; strengthened protections for lower income beneficiaries; improved Medicare's coverage of preventive services, and made Medicare more efficient through electronic prescribing. The Senate is currently scheduled to reconsider H.R. 6331 immediately following the July 4th recess.

"Because of this vote, the Senate went home for July 4th recess, leaving care for our nation's seniors, disabled individuals, and military families hanging in the balance," said Peter Lund, M.D., president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "We call on Senator Specter to reconsider his vote and return to Washington to do what's right -- vote to ensure patient access to care and improve health security for 44 million Americans."

Throughout the debate on Medicare legislation, AARP, AMA, and the Pennsylvania Medical Society have engaged their members in the fight to keep Medicare fair and protect access to doctors. Hundreds of thousands of AARP supporters, including 36,826 in Pennsylvania, called and emailed Congress, signed petitions, wrote letters to their local papers, and participated in Keep Medicare Fair events around the country over the last several weeks. In addition, more than 41,000 patients and physicians called Congress in June through the AMA grassroots hotline, and the AMA is airing new radio and television ads that urge opponents of H.R. 6331 to put patients' access to care before insurance profits by voting for the bill as soon as they return to Washington from their holiday recess.

SOURCE AARP Pennsylvania
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