More than 2.6 million people in Ohio are living with arthritis. It is our nation's leading cause of disability and costs Ohio an estimated $5.5 billion annually. 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.
The first issue is Medicare's cap on physical and occupational therapy spending. At present, when Medicare patients require physical or occupational therapy beyond what is covered by the cap (currently $1,880 per year), they can file for an exception to continue Medicare coverage of medically necessary treatments. Without remedial action, after Dec. 31 exceptions to the spending cap will no longer be granted, and patients who require additional therapy will not receive it. Without adequate therapy, Medicare patients will require other more serious treatments such as doctors' visits and surgeries, ultimately resulting in Medicare spending more money than would have been spent on the therapy.
Second, Congress must address Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR), or physicians' payments for treating Medicare patients will be reduced by 27 percent. If this happens, many Ohio doctors would be unable to afford to treat disabled and elderly patients. If physicians stop accepting Medicare patients, Medicare spending will further 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 Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to take action to extend the therapy cap and address the SGR.
Great Lakes Region,