The American Medicial Association (AMA), along with medical societies representing 50 states and the District of Columbia and 65 national physician organizations, united to send a strong message to Congress—immediate action is needed to stop the drastic 30% Medicare payment cuts looming at the end of this year to protect seniors’ access to health care.

Congress has repeatedly failed to fix the flawed Medicare physician payment formula, relying instead on temporary reprieves from scheduled cuts. The latest of these temporary delays stabilized Medicare physician payments only through the end of November. If action is not taken quickly by Congress, on December 1 Medicare payments for physician services will be slashed by more than 23%. An additional cut of 6.5% will follow on January 1.

“The AMA is calling on Congress to immediately address this impending crisis when they return to Washington after the November elections,” said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD. “Without action to stop the cuts, Congress will create a Medicare meltdown with access to care threatened for seniors and the Baby Boomers who will begin entering Medicare in January. Ultimately, a permanent solution must be passed to fix this broken system, but Congress must first stop the 30% payment cuts threatening seniors’ access to care now.”

Severe instability in the Medicare system is already compromising access to health care for America’s seniors. According to a 2010 MedPAC survey, about one in four seniors looking for a new primary care physician had trouble finding one.

“The threat of cuts to already low Medicare rates has left many physicians uncertain about the future of Medicare in their practice,” said Wilson. “The massive cuts scheduled at the end of this year come during the same time period when physicians can change their status within the Medicare program. Although these physicians are dedicated to their Medicare patients, many will be forced to consider changes including limiting the number of Medicare patients they can accept. Congress must send a strong message by stopping these cuts and committing to fixing this broken payment system that threatens access to care for patients.”