Oklahoma doctors warned Wednesday that looming cuts to their Medicare reimbursement rates may force some physicians to stop seeing patients who receive benefits from the nation’s largest health care program. Physicians are facing a 21 percent cut in Medicare rates June 1 unless Congress extends the current physician payment rate, which has been extended a couple times, said Ken King, executive director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Dr. K.A. Mehta, the state medical association’s president, said declining Medicare reimbursements are forcing more Oklahoma doctors to limit the number of Medicare patients they see. Operating costs, such as rent, staff and malpractice insurance, continue to increase, he said. "This means reduced access to health care for our patients who often need it the most,” Mehta said. Medicare recipients include seniors and people with disabilities. Thousands of military family members covered by TRICARE also would be affected because its reimbursement rate is tied to the Medicare rate, doctors said. "We believe the only acceptable solution is for Congress to repeal the flawed Medicare formula,” said Dr. Larry Bookman, president of the Oklahoma County Medical Society, He said it should be replaced with a stable, fair funding mechanism that reflects "the true cost of providing care.” The national health care bill signed into law earlier this year did not address the reimbursement rates for Medicare, King said. A new plan was included in the Senate plan, but it was omitted in the final version, he said. King announced that Oklahoma doctors are joining a national effort to get 1 million signatures on electronic petitions that will be presented to members of Congress next month. People may sign the petitions at the state medical association’s website, www.,okmed.org. Contacted later, U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said cutting Medicare reimbursements to physicians would be detrimental, but funding is an issue. "We need a permanent solution that keeps doctors in the Medicare program without adding to our nation’s unsustainable deficit,” Fallin said. John Hart, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said estimates indicate it could cost about $59 million to come up with a more equitable reimbursement plan. Coburn, a physician, believes reimbursement reform for physicians "is critical, but it should include reforms that will truly lower costs, such as liability reform, and it should not increase the deficit,” Hart said.