Today, President Obama signed legislation that will stop a significant pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients from taking effect. The pay cut was called for under an old formula called the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that governs how much doctors are paid to treat seniors on Medicare and military families enrolled in the TRICARE program. President Obama and members of both parties agree this formula needs to be changed. Without the action the President took today, doctors who see Medicare patients and families enrolled in TRICARE would have seen their payments slashed by 23 percent.
The pay cut wouldn't have just hurt doctors – seniors and families across America would have suffered as well. Many doctors would have simply stopped seeing Medicare patients and military families if this pay cut took effect, effectively denying patients the chance to see the doctor they know and trust.
That wasn't acceptable to President Obama or leaders in Congress and the law the President signed today delays the pay cut from taking effect for another year.
The law wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers like Brenda Kelley of Woodbridge, Virginia and Robert Sargeant of Fairfax, Virginia. Brenda and Robert were two of the thousands of AARP members who worked hard to make this legislation a reality. They made phone calls, wrote letters, and helped ensure this important legislation was enacted.
They weren’t alone. American Medical Association President Cecil Wilson and Board Chair Ardis Hoven, along with doctors from across the country spoke out about the importance of ensuring doctors knew how much they would be paid for treating seniors on Medicare. Together with AARP CEO Barry Rand, AARP Board Chair Lee Hammond and Military Officers Association of America President Admiral Norbert Ryan, these individuals who helped protect seniors, military families and doctors celebrated with President Obama as he signed this legislation into law in the Oval Office.
They were also joined by some of the bipartisan leaders in Congress who helped pass this law including:
Today was an important milestone, but signing this law is just the first step. For years, Congress and Presidents from both parties have acted to stop pay cuts for doctors called for by the Sustainable Growth Rate. Each solution was temporary, forcing Congress to continually deal with this matter and leaving doctors to wonder if they would be forced to take a pay cut in the future.
After years of temporary measures, the President believes it's time for a permanent solution. Over the next year, the President and his team will work with Congress to address this matter once and for all. We all agree that this formula needs to be changed. Now's the time to get it done.
Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Director of the White House Office of Health Reform