Because the Senate failed to act, Medicare physician reimbursement cuts of 10.6% were scheduled to take effect July 1, 2008. Though Senate inaction caused the cuts to be put into place, Medicare officials have said they will not process payments until July 15, according to information posted on

The delay in payment processing is essentially preventing the cuts from having an impact. If the cuts come to fruition, a full 60% of physicians say this cut will force them to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). Over 18 months, the cuts will total more than 15%, while medical practice costs continue to increase. Industry watchers predict the Senate will likely vote on the Medicare package this week. At that time, the cuts could be staved off.

"Congress had 6 months to effectively address harsh Medicare cuts that will harm seniors’ access to care," said AMA President Nancy Nielsen, MD. "Despite broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives for legislation to stop the Medicare cuts, action was stymied by 39 senators."

The AMA is asking the Senate to make good on bipartisan support for legislative action that would replace Medicare physician payment cuts with updates that better reflect increasing medical practice costs. Two weeks ago, the House passed the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331) by an overwhelming vote of 355 to 59.

Reflecting physicians’ frustration with a group of senators that blocked action on legislation that would stop harsh Medicare physician payment cuts, the AMA began airing new TV and radio ads urging opponents of HR 6331 to put patients’ access to care before insurance profits.

"The AMA is activating a full-court press—both advertising and grassroots—in the states during the Independence Day recess," said Nielsen. "Over the month of June, more than 41,000 calls by patients and physicians have been made to Congress urging action through the AMA’s grassroots hotline alone. Physicians and patients will be holding their senators’ feet to the fire."

"Our Patients Action Network is open now to anyone who wants to voice their concern about Medicare cuts at or by calling (888) 434-6200," said Nielsen. "It’s crucial that Congress act—and that they know America’s patients will not stand idly by as access to care for seniors, the disabled, and military families is put at risk."