Congress has three weeks left to stop the 26.5 percent Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) physician payment cuts (to take effect on January 1, 2013) before they adjourn for the holidays. The Orange County Medical Association urges physicians to keep the pressure on Congress to stop these cuts. Call AMA's Grassroots Hotline, (888) 434-6200, to be connected with your members of Congress. Description Members of Congress have returned to Washington, D.C. for a Lame Duck Session to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" issues affecting the future of medicine and our country. These issues must be addressed before January 1, 2013 or the following occurs: 26.5 percent Medicare physician fee-for-service rate cut because of the SGR formula; Across-the-board spending cuts known as "sequestration" - $109 billion/year. While Medicaid is exempt from the sequestration cuts, the Medicare program faces 2 percent cuts; Defense takes $500 million in cuts and the rest comes from domestic programs. Expiration of the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (including individual rates, capital gains, dividends, child tax credit, marriage penalty reduction, and the estate tax). The Alternative Minimum Tax patch expires. The Social Security Payroll tax cut expires. Unemployment benefits extension expires. It is important that members of Congress work together in a bipartisan way to resolve these vital issues and avoid going over the "fiscal cliff." Most economists speculate that if Congress fails to act, economic growth will drop significantly, unemployment will rise, and the country will slip back into a deep recession. CALL your members of Congress and urge them to work together to stop the Medicare SGR physician payment cut of 26.5 percent and the Medicare sequestration cut of 2 percent before they take effect on January 1, 2013. How to contact members of Congress: Phone: Call AMA's Grassroots Hotline, (888) 434-6200, to be connected with your members of Congress. You will be asked to enter your zip code and select your Representative. Email: Federal legislators must be contacted via the email forms on their websites: www.writerep.house.gov , www.boxer.senate.gov and www.feinstein.senate.gov . Talking Points Urge California Senators and your member of Congress to: Repeal the Medicare SGR and stop the 26.5% physician payment cut. Stop the Medicare 2% Sequestration Cut. Adopt long-term Medicare Payment Reform. Update the California Medicare Geographic Payment Localities. Stop Medicaid and Other Health Care Cuts Background Tough decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks but Congress must make Medicare funding a top priority. We can't allow Congress to ignore the nearly 30 percent Medicare cuts facing physicians and patients in California. Such cuts will certainly harm access to doctors for seniors, military families and potentially all California patients because private insurers follow Medicare. Moreover, comprehensive reform of the Medicare physician payment system is long overdue. Working together, CMA, AMA, the national specialty societies and state medical associations are currently developing an alternative Medicare payment system that will stabilize the Medicare program and promote high quality, high value care. Physicians are leading the way. But first, Congress must act responsibly and stop the scheduled Medicare SGR payment cut of 26.5 percent. Such cuts seriously threaten the viability of California physician practices and your ability to care for patients. Physicians are also important employers crucial to the California economy. In recent days, Senate and House Republicans have forwarded a proposal to cut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid (Medi-Cal) physician payment increase as a way to fund the fiscal cliff issues. CMA is opposed to such cuts. California Medi-Cal rates are already some of the lowest in the nation - 50 percent below Medicare. Because of these low rates, 75 percent of physicians cannot afford to participate in Medi-Cal and thus, 50 percent of Medi-Cal patients can't find a physician. Regardless of the ACA, California needs the Medi-Cal rate increase to protect access to care. CMA will also be working to stop sequestration budget cuts to other vital health care programs, such as public health and graduate medical education (GME). Finally, CMA is pursuing an update to the Medicare physician payment localities in the Medicare/Budget Sequestration legislative package. California's localities have not been updated and thus, 14 urban counties are still designated as rural and physicians in these counties are paid up to 14 percent less than their urban counterparts.