Fiscal cliff impacts Medicare

Published Dec 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm (Updated Dec 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm)

Over three million people in Pennsylvania are living with arthritis. It is our nation’s leading cause of disability, and costs PA an estimated $128 billion dollars annually. I have had rheumatoid arthritis for 40 years, and even with insurance have still needed several very expensive medications and surgeries. We cannot afford to ignore these facts. As Congress seeks to avoid the fiscal cliff before Jan. 3, they must also address two important Medicare issues.

Without action, a $1,900 hard cap on therapy will be automatically enacted for Medicare patients on Dec. 31. Currently, when Medicare patients require physical or occupational therapy beyond the Medicare spending cap, physicians can file for an exception to continue their coverage of medically necessary treatments. Without appropriate treatments, Medicare patients will require additional treatments, doctor’s visits and surgeries, ultimately resulting in increased Medicare spending.

Additionally, congress must address Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR), or physician payment for treating Medicare patients will be reduced by 27 percent. Many Pennsylvania doctors will be unable to afford serving disabled and elderly patients. If physicians stop accepting Medicare patients, where will our must vulnerable receive care? Medicare spending will again increase as patients lose access to preventative care.

Congress holds the key to easing the pain of people who suffer with arthritis. I urge Senators Casey and Toomey to take action: Extend the therapy cap and address the SGR.

Gertrude Rose

Upper St. Clair

Fiscal cliff impacts Medicare

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