AAFP Targets Medicare Payment, Medical Education Funding in Campaign

Congress needs to ‘hear from us first’

Friday, October 28, 2011

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5224

LEAWOOD, Kan. — “Stand up and fight.” That’s the message family physicians and patient advocates are getting in a month-long video campaign launched by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Focused on the long-standing flaws in the Medicare physician payment system, the challenges to graduate medical education funding and budget threats to primary care physician training, the campaign comprises three videos targeted to AAFP members, a fourth video targeted to Congress, a letter-writing campaign and social media updates.

“It’s time to stand up and fight for our profession, our practices and our patients,” says AAFP President Glen Stream, MD, in the videos.

Two videos unveiled today focus on the flawed sustainable growth rate formula that determines Medicare physician payment. In the first, Stream urges viewers to “stand up and fight for our profession, our practices and our patients” by telling Congress to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula.

In today’s second video(youtu.be), Sarah Sams, MD, a family physician practicing in Hillard, Ohio, describes how the unstable Medicare physician payment system has hurt her ability to meet patients’ needs for care.

Unchecked, the sustainable growth rate formula on which Medicare payment is based will slash physician payment by nearly 30 percent Jan. 1, 2012. That would “deliver a crushing blow to … our ability to care for out patients,” Stream says in the video.

The fourth video, to be released Nov. 3, will call on viewers to tell Congress that ensuring patients’ access to needed care depends on a strong primary care physician workforce — one that depends on adequate support for the Health Professions Program, which is authorized by Title VII of the Public Health Service Act.

“Research consistently shows that students attending medical schools receiving Title VII funding are more likely to go into primary care and to serve in underserved areas,” said Stream. “And the National Health Service Corps complements the Title VII goals by both easing student’s medical school debt and encouraging them to practice in underserved areas. Right now, more than 7 million people rely on NHSC clinicians for their health care needs. Most of them living in underserved areas and would not have access to care without the NHSC. And yet, we have more than 9,000 vacancies because funding is inadequate to fill all of these slots.”

An earlier video(bit.ly) focused on the need to build the primary care physician workforce by preserving graduate medical education funding. Federal budget proposals have called for slashing federal GME support, a move that would disproportionately affect primary care medical training at a time when the nation is grappling with a primary care physician shortage.

“Our medical education system is losing more primary care training programs than it’s gaining,” said Stream. “Since 2000, we’ve lost 55 family medicine residency programs, but we’ve gained only 28 newly accredited programs. A cut in graduate medical education support would severely threaten the viability of existing training programs. That would mean less patient access to needed care, because we’re already struggling to produce primary care physicians. Further program closures would create even greater access problems.”

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions(5 page PDF) on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).