California has 4.5 million Medicare patients, more than any other state. But many doctors that care for those patients say the way Medicare pays benefits must be changed during this lame duck session of Congress.
These doctors, represented by the California Medical Association, are continually lobbying Congress to keep Medicare funding levels stable.
Because of a previous Congressional attempt to reduce federal spending, Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors are scheduled to be cut by 25% in January.
To prevent the cuts, Congress has to continually pass short term extensions of the current Medicare rate. Andrew LaMar is with the California Medical Association, and he says Congress needs to eliminate the scheduled 25% cut entirely - instead of putting off.
"It puts physicians in a terrible position, because---then they have to decide whether they are going to take a loss to treat senior citizens, or stress out the finances of their practice to treat senior citizens," LaMar says. "When you are getting reimbursements that don't cover the cost of treating them, it puts you in a quandary."
Supporters of reducing government spending say the doctors are trying to protect their own financial interests and are scaring seniors as a lobbying tactic. Medicare reimbursement in California is higher than the national average by about $600 per person.