Protect Medicare

To the editor:

As a practicing physician in Winner ��and more importantly in the state of South Dakota ��I am extremely concerned that access to care for senior citizens in our state is at risk because of pending Medicare physician payment cuts. Over the next two years, the government plans to cut Medicare physician payments nationwide by 15 percent, yet the costs of running a medical practice are continually on the rise. And nowhere will these cuts be felt greater than in South Dakota.

Compared to the rest of the country, South Dakota has a below-average ratio of physicians to Medicare beneficiaries. Currently, South Dakota's geographic adjustment factor (GAF) ranks sixth lowest in the nation, and when the first cuts are scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2008, South Dakota faces cuts of an additional 3.2 percent on top of the scheduled 10 percent, forcing South Dakota physicians to face the highest Medicare reimbursement cuts in the nation.

Further, 42 percent of South Dakota's practicing physicians are over 50 years old, an age at which surveys have shown many physicians consider reducing their patient care activities.

Already, 60 percent of physicians nationwide have stated they will be forced to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat when the first payment cut begins on Jan. 1. In order to stop the Medicare cuts from hurting seniors, the U.S. Senate needs to pass legislation that will stop the cuts and increase payments to help cover practice costs, while limiting premium increases for patients.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already acted by authorizing legislation that pays for these priority issues by eliminating $54 billion in overpayments to Medicare private insurance plans.

I ask the patients of South Dakota to act on their own behalf and join me in calling Sens. Thune and Johnson to take action to protect Medicare for its current and future beneficiaries.

Thank you,

Tony L. Berg, MD


South Dakota State Medical Association

Conservatives needed

To the editor:

Amendment 1 to the Constitution of the United States:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances."

What is so hard about understanding this? Why do the liberals insist on trying to make it possible for the Amendment to be rewritten by liberal judges? Please let us not cling to a special group and lose all of our freedoms and let us get a more conservative group in Washington. We have the right to worship anywhere we want. School is a place we can worship and the government cannot interfere. We need to elect people who will uphold the First Amendment the way it is written.

We need to get the two liberals out of office from our state and make this a more Christian state. We don't need to be butchering babies, and making everything that feels good part of what we are. I call on all the ministers, rabbis, and priests to please read the Bible and start doing their jobs. It is a shame that many of them will not speak up and tell the truth as they know it is written. If you are non-Christian, then just do what is ethical and it will be the same.

Thank you,

A. Muriel Sabo


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