Mr. PRICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, in the late 1990s, Congress came up with a new formula to determine how much to pay doctors for taking care of seniors in the Medicare program. It's called the ``sustainable growth rate,'' or the SGR. And like so many Washington solutions, it doesn't work.
Before coming to Congress, I was a doctor. I took care of patients for over 20 years. I remember thinking at the time that the SGR program was put into place, Well, that won't work. It's a house of cards. It's destined to fail.
Mr. Speaker, here we are. America's seniors are on the verge of losing access to health care. Let me repeat that, Mr. Speaker. America's seniors are on the verge of losing access to health care. How? If Congress and President Obama don't act by January 1, tomorrow, Medicare payments to physicians will be reduced, will be cut by nearly 27 percent. You see, Mr. Speaker, the fiscal cliff is more than just the tax increases that President Obama so dearly wants.
The effect of the SGR formula means that physicians who treat Medicare patients will be forced to limit the number of seniors that they see, fewer patients being seen, doctors forced not to see patients because of foolish Washington policy. This jeopardizes health care for millions of folks. The sustainable growth rate, the formula used by Medicare to determine physician reimbursement, needs to be repealed. It doesn't work for patients, and it doesn't work for doctors. It's destructive to the very principles that we hold dear about health care. It violates accessibility, it violates quality, and it limits choices. It harms real people.
There are positive solutions that we're working on so that we may responsibly reform this broken system. But while we work to put in place a system that actually does make sense, we must provide certainty for patients and their doctors for the new year.
Mr. Speaker, slashing payments to doctors is a terrible idea, and it must be stopped. The SGR needs to be patched now so that seniors may continue to see their doctors, and then we should move forward with real solutions that work for real people, not just for Washington bureaucrats.
The sad thing about our current dysfunction in this town is that people all across this country get harmed. It's not because of something that they did, but because of something that government did to them or forced them to do. It's time to let Americans be Americans, and in health care that means caring for each other and allowing patients and families and doctors to make medical decisions, not Washington.