In this week's address, President Barack Obama called on Senate Republicans to stop blocking a vote to prevent a 21 percent pay cut for doctors who see Medicare patients -- a pay cut that will hurt America's seniors and their doctors. Since 2003, Congress, under Republican and Democratic leadership, has deferred these cuts in Medicare reimbursements from going into effect. The President is committed to finding a responsible, long term solution to this problem, but it is not acceptable to punish America's seniors or the physicians who treat them. If Congress does not act, then doctors will start receiving lower Medicare reimbursements next week, which could lead to seniors losing their doctors.
More than a decade ago, Congress set up a formula that governs how doctors get paid by the Medicare program. The intent was to slow the growth of Medicare costs, but the result was a formula that has proposed cutting payments for America's doctors year after year after year. These are cuts that would not only jeopardize our physicians' pay, but our seniors' health care.
Since 2003, Congress has acted to prevent these pay cuts from going into effect. These votes were largely bipartisan, and they succeeded when Democrats ran Congress and when Republicans ran Congress -- which was most of the time.
This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21% -- a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether. But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors.
Now, I realize that simply kicking these cuts down the road another year is not a long-term solution to this problem. For years, I have said that a system where doctors are left to wonder if they'll get fairly reimbursed makes absolutely no sense. And I am committed to permanently reforming this Medicare formula in a way that balances fiscal responsibility with the responsibility we have to doctors and seniors. In addition, we're already taking significant steps to slow the growth of Medicare costs through health insurance reform -- not by targeting doctors and seniors, but by eliminating 50% of the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system by 2012. This not only strengthens Medicare, it saves taxpayer dollars.
I'm absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I'm not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That's just wrong. And that's why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.
If they don't act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.
We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America's seniors and America's doctors.