AAFP Statement: Senate's Failure to Address Medicare Payment Ill Serves America's Elderly and Disabled Patients

Friday, June 27, 2008

Statement Attributable to:
James King, M.D.
American Academy of Family Physicians

The American Academy of Family Physicians is dismayed and deeply disappointed that the U.S. Senate has failed in its responsibility to enact legislation to prevent a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare physician payment to take effect July 1.

The impact of this failure goes beyond the medical community; it threatens Medicare beneficiaries’ access to health care because it further drives family physicians toward financial insolvency. Access problems for these patients are emerging. In its 2007 presentation to Congress, MedPAC reported that 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries were having trouble finding a new primary care physician. In March, the Medical Group Management Association reported that nearly 24 percent of physicians in all specialties had begun limiting or not accepting new Medicare patients; 46 percent would limit or stop accepting new Medicare patients with implementation of the 10.6 percent pay cut scheduled for July 1.

Family physicians have worked tirelessly on behalf of Medicare patients. Despite those efforts, family physicians have struggled with 20 percent inflation in costs for office space, equipment, supplies, health and administrative staff, medical liability insurance and other costs of business since 2001. During that time, their Medicare compensation for their services has stagnated. No small business – as most family physician practices are – can sustain that kind of loss and remain open to care for people.

It is unconscionable that our elected officials – who were sent to Washington to represent the needs of the American public – cannot act to ensure access to care for millions of their elderly and disabled constituents.

The Senate must get back to work and find a solution that will allow family physicians to serve their Medicare patients. Of all their constituents, elderly and disabled Americans are least able to cope with the instability that Congressional inaction forces on their access to health care.

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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).